Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) outsprinted Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) to win stage five of the Tour of Qatar.
The Gorilla, who narrowly missed out in a photo finish in stage four, profited once again from a superb lead-out from his team and held off Kruopis’ challenge to win his first stage of the race.
Kruopis had actually found the wheel of Jurgen Roelandts, as the Belgian executed another superb lead-out for Greipel, but the German swung out with perfect timing to pass the Lithuanian and power to victory.
Roelandts’ lead-out was such that he was able to finish sixth, while overall leader Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) finished safely in ninth place behind the winner of stages two and four, his team-mate Tom Boonen.
After crosswinds had battered the peloton on stages one and two, and tailwinds contributed to a phenomenal pace on stage four, it was normal service this time out.
A four-man breakaway, consisting of Russian champion Vladimir Isaichev (Katusha), Belgian champion Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing), Daniel Schorn (Team NetApp-Endura) and Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r-La Mondiale) went clear very early on.
Despite building a lead of more than seven minutes at the halfway stage, and sharing the intermediate sprints, Omega Pharma-Quickstep never appeared troubled by the break.
With 53 kilometres remaining as they passed through the final intermediate sprint, the escapees still had an advantage of more than four minutes but a headwind section severely slowed their momentum.
Driving the bunch, Omega Pharma-Quickstep, with Boonen and Terpstra safely tucked in behind them, gradually whittled down the lead on the wide open desert roads.
FDJ.fr and Lotto-Belisol also brought riders to the front as they took advantage of a strong tailwind to reach speeds of up to 60km/h, with the breakaway holding a 2’50” lead in the final 25 kilometres.
The lead had been cut significantly just before, but clever management of the bunch by OPQS ensured the race did not come together too soon.
Lotto-Belisol, Orica-GreenEDGE and Belkin all took big shifts on the front on the final lap, as the escapees dragged out their day-long effort as far as possible, with the race eventually coming back together in the final seven kilometres.
NetApp-Endura hit the front on the back stretch, but their more illustrious rival sprint trains remained unperturbed, happy to let the German-Scottish team do the early work.
Into the final kilometre, Lotto-Belisol came to the front however, with their sprint train once again delivering Greipel in perfect position.
Though Kruopis had found Roelandts’ wheel ahead of the German, Greipel led the sprint out and this time had more than enough to hold on – with enough time to salute his victory and sit up over the finish line.
Terpstra’s ninth place ensures he remains in the gold jersey ahead of tomorrow’s final stage around the capital, Doha, with team-mate Boonen 17 seconds behind in second place.
Tour of Qatar 2014: stage five – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – 3.48.53
2) Aidis Kruopis (LTU) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
3) Theo Bos (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
4) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – Tinkoff-Saxo
5) Matteo Pelucchi (SUI) – IAM Cycling
6) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
7) Sam Bennett (IRL) – Team NetApp-Endura
8) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
10) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale
1) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 13.08.31
2) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +17”
3) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +20”
4) Ian Stannard (GBR) – Team Sky +37”
5) Michael Morkov (DEN) – Tinkoff-Saxo +48”
6) Marcel Sieberg (GER) – Lotto-Belisol +56”
7) Guillaume van Keirsbulck (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +57”
8) Stijn Vandenbergh (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1.05
9) Andrew Fenn (GBR) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1.18
10) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol +1.23