Tornado Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) sprinted to victory on stage four for his second win of this year’s Tour of Qatar – and the 22nd of his career.
Boonen pipped Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) on the line in a photo finish, courtesy of a marginally better bike throw, at the end of a fast day in the saddle.
Greipel started the sprint from a reduced final bunch after his Lotto-Belisol team led him out with what appeared to be perfect timing in a long-range attack in the final kilometre.
Omega Pharma-Quickstep spotted the danger, however, coming round the outside to drop Boonen off at the front alongside Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol).
Roelandts was neck-and-neck with Boonen when Greipel shot from his team-mate’s wheel, with Tornado Tom appearing to have too much to do as a gap opened up.
However, he latched on to the German’s wheel and came round him on the line to seal the tightest of victories – so close that Greipel had initially refused to believe he had been beaten.
Barry Markus (Belkin), Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Irishman Sam Bennett (Team NetApp-Endura) completed the top five, while Team Sky’s Bernie Eisel finished tenth.
It lifts Boonen back into second place overall, 17 seconds shy of team-mate Niki Terpstra, who finished safely in the leading group thanks to the efforts of an Omega Pharma-Quickstep team which has dominated in Qatar.
Roelandts now drops to third overall, though Lars Boom (Belkin), who went into the stage third overall, fell out of contention after an ill-timed puncture.
With a strong tailwind, the first hour of racing saw more than 60 kilometeres covered by the peloton, and there was little let-up in the pace over the latter half of the 135km route, with the final average speed a phenomenal 56km/h.
At such speed Boom was never likely to be able to re-join the leading group, which had come together with just seven kilometres remaining after crosswinds shredded the peloton.
Wow, that was a close one! Greipel 2nd. Two victories for Tornado Tom! #TourofQatar #OPQS pic.twitter.com/bX27RUqBiR
— OPQS Cycling Team (@opqscyclingteam) February 12, 2014
Ian Stannard (Team Sky) is among the riders to have profited from Boom’s misfortune, moving up to fourth overall, while Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) finished safely in the bunch to move up to ninth.
It leaves Omega Pharma-Quickstep in prime position to seal overall victory, with Terpstra and Boonen likely to lead another two-pronged attack on the flat stage five.
Tour of Qatar: stage four – result
1) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 2.22.34
2) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – ST
3) Barry Markus (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
4) Aidis Kruopis (LTU) – Orica-GreenEDGE
5) Sam Bennett (IRL) – Team NetApp-Endura
6) Jacopo Guarnieri (ITA) – Astana
7) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ.fr
8) Matteo Pelucchi (SUI) – IAM Cycling
9) Michael van Staeyen (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10) Bernie Eisel (AUT) – Team Sky
1) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 9.19.40
2) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +17”
3) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +20”
4) Ian Stannard (GBR) – Team Sky +37”
5) Guillaune van Keirsbulck (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +47”
6) Michael Morkov (DEN) – Tinkoff-Saxo +48”
7) Marcel Sieberg (GER) – Lotto-Belisol +51”
8) Stijn Vandenbergh (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1.00
9) Andrew Fenn (GBR) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1.08
10) Karsten Kroon (NED) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.21