Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) won the final stage of the Tour of Qatar as Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) wrapped up overall victory in Doha.
The 2013 RideLondon-Surrey Classic winner timed his acceleration to perfection, leading from the front to cross several lengths clear of Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Bernie Eisel (Team Sky).
With the race only coming back together on the final lap, sprint trains formed across the width of the road and it was Demare who took full advantage to earn his first victory of the year.
A break of five went after three kilometres, with Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing), Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Rafaa Chtioui (Skydive Dubai) and Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthCare) earning a gap.
Sharing the efforts in the crosswinds, the five held a steady lead but were always kept at a manageable distance by the bunch
Leading the way into Doha for the finale, the five escapees had a gap around the 2’30” mark but it soon tumbled as they tackled ten laps of the closing 5.5km finishing circuit.
Cannondale, keen to record their first stage victory of the season, put in work on the front of the peloton, with Lotto-Belisol, Tinkoff-Saxo and Omega Pharma-Quickstep also keeping riders forward.
With the escapees in sight on the long flat roads, several teams took turns driving the peloton with the five-man break never allowed much of an advantage despite continuing to work well together.
Still one minute clear with two laps remaining, the five showed no sign of giving in easily though, but Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), backed by riders from Team Sky, Ag2r-La Mondiale and Orica-GreenEDGE, pulled hard to halve the deficit by the time the escapees took the bell.
The bunch never appeared panicked behind them though, with the sprint trains gradually forming in preparation for the catch to be made and no one team taking full control on the front until Belkin took up the mantle with four kilometres remaining.
With the three kilometre mark safely passed, and Niki Terpstra therefore guaranteed his golden jersey, the pace in the bunch finally heated up.
The escapees continued to work in tandem until the end but the catch was made in the final two kilometres.
Bazzana refused to give in, accelerating out of the final corner, but Lotto-Belisol’s train, with the momentum behind them, countered the move.
However, with the Belgian team forming on the left-hand side of the road, Michael Morkov (Tinkoff-Saxo) spotted an opportunity to lead the sprint out on the opposite side.
Team-mate Bennati was on his wheel but it was Demare who led the sprint out, and the Frenchman held off a strong challenge from behind to win the stage.
Bennati held on to second, while Eisel put in another strong sprint to finish third.
Tour of Qatar 2014: stage six – result
1) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ.fr – 2.45.06
2) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST
3) Bernie Eisel (AUT) – Team Sky
4) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
5) Lucas Haedo (ARG) – Skydive Dubai
6) Silvain Dillier (SUI) – BMC Racing
7) Andrea Guardini (ITA) – Astana
8) Sam Bennet (IRL) – Team NetApp-Endura
9) Sebastian Lander (DEN) – BMC Racing
10) Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
1) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 15.53.36
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) – Team Saxo-Tinkoff +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