Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has won the opening stage of the 2014 Tour of Qatar.
The Dutchman outsprinted his confederates in a five-man breakaway to claim the Belgian super team’s first victory of this season’s desert campaign.
Terpstra had team-mate Guillame Van Keirsbuick for company in the escape group but the former Dutch national time trial champion earned his victory through a strong sprint rather than numerical advantage.
He said: “When we had an echelon after 55km, we were there with five riders. A big group came back, but not everyone. Then in the final after the bonus sprint we got in a breakaway of five. In that group we participated really well together, especially Guillaume. What he did in the last kilometer was perfect for me and I’m happy I could finish the job.”
Van Keirsbuick had looked cooked as the breakaway sped under the three kilometres to go banner, but recovered to drive his fellow escapees beneath the flamme rouge before dropping back.
With Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) and BMC Racing’s Michael Schär among the dangermen, Terpstra needed to be on his mettle and the 29-year-old, now in his fourth year with OPQS, was first to respond when Schär launched his bid for victory.
Roelandts, however, more typically deployed as the final lead-out man for German sprint king, Andre ‘The Gorilla’ Greipel, mistimed his effort and was left to lead home the remainder of the breakaway, a single second behind Terpstra.
OPQS, who arrived in Qatar as defending champions, have claimed overall victory last year with Mark Cavendish, and victory in 2012 with Tom Boonen, enjoyed a successful day in the vicious crosswinds that divided the peloton into a series of echelons.
Boonen, a past master in the desert winds having won the Qatari national tour on four occasions, rode at the head of the first echelon behind the breakaway, seemingly in easy command of the 20 riders who accompanied him.
Today’s result is better news for OPQS, who left the Tour Down Under, Tour de San Luis, and Dubai Tour empty handed. Boonen’s success in Qatar, however, and Cavendish’s last year, has made the emirate an unlikely second home for the Belgian squad.
Tomorrow’s 160.5km stage from Qatar’s camel race track to the Al Khor Corniche promises more of the same, and Terpstra’s gains in today’s intermediate sprints will see him begin with a useful nine-second advantage over Roelandts.
Tour of Qatar 2014: stage one – result
1) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 3.13.42
2) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +1″
3) Michael Schär (SUI) – BMC Racing – ST
4) Martin Elmiger (SUI) – IAM Cycling
5) Guillame Van Keirsbuick (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +7″
6) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – ST
7) Barry Markus (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
8) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ.fr
9) Michael Van Staeyen (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10) Marcel Seiberg (GER) – Lotto-Belisol
1) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – 3.13.26
2) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +9″
3) Michael Schär (SUI) – BMC Racing – 12″
4) Martin Elmiger (SUI) – IAM Cycling – 17″
5) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha +21″
6) Sam Bennett (IRL) – Netapp-Endura +22″
7) Guillame Van Keirsbuick (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +23″
8) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep – ST
9) Barry Markus (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
10) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ.fr