Mark Cavendish opened his season victory account today at stage 1 of the Tour of Qatar, giving Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka its inaugural win. Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) was 2nd and Andrea Guardini (Astana) took 3rd.
The opening stage of the Tour of Qatar got off to a blistering start today as a lead group of 21 riders broke away in the stiff Qatari wind after just 40km of racing. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were in a great position, placing Mark Cavendish, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tyler Farrar in the front group. There were a number of favourites in the select group, with Katusha having 3 teammates up there to support Alexander Kristoff while Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon), Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Sacha Modolo were all also part of this dangerous lead pack.
Cavendish and co. would drive the break as hard as they could, opening up a lead of 1’20” over the chasers. The peloton, in its panic to reel in the the strong lead group, saw a number of crashes further hinder their chase. It wasn’t long until just 40 odd riders were chasing the 21 in front. Again our African Team were in a good spot by having 4 riders in this chasing peloton.
The gap would hold constant around the minute mark for the majority of the stage though and coming into the final 20km, it was evident that the lead group would decide the stage. Cavendish, Boasson Hagen and Farrar rode well together, as Katusha and BMC upped the pace to shed a few more riders from the lead group. Coming into the final, it was a 16 rider strong group sprinting for the win. Katusha led it out in the finishing straight but Cavendish was able to come off Kristoff’s wheel and blitz to an impressive first win of the season. Boasson Hagen was also in the mix, crossing the line 6th.
Thanks to Cavendish taking 2nd and then 1st at the two intermediate sprints during the stage, the Manxman has an 8 second lead in the overall classification giving him the golden leaders jersey, he also leads the silver points jersey competition as well.
We’ve probably got the best race director in the world for this race in Roger Hammond. We had a lot of confidence for today after last night’s team meeting. The split went pretty soon in the beginning and I was always looked after from the start. Jay Thomson always kept me there at the front in the beginning ready to go and when the group split Youcef Reguigui did a big turn to get me there, and then we had three in the front so that was okay. Obviously we had me there for the sprint and we wanted Edvald there for the overall. So we were content with having the 3 there. It was a long day and a hard. Unfortunately, Tyler punctured and he used too much energy to get back to me for the sprint but he was incredible in helping to keep the group away. Edvald just stayed with me in the final and I wanted Kristoff’s wheel because they had the numbers so we knew they’d do the leadout and Edvald just sweeped, he was there in case I needed him. I launched from Kristoff with about 200m to go, the road turned right so I hugged the right side and I knew no one would come round me then. It was great that Edvald was there as for sure he will be in contention after the time trial on Wednesday. In all, it was a super strong performance by all the guys and I am really happy to get the first win of the year.
Mark Cavendish – Rider
It was a really good collective team effort. When one races on the flat roads in the wind it’s about how the team works together and everyone did their jobs today, making sure Mark, Tyler and Edvald were in the front. There was still a lot of racing to do in the final but with the team helping those 3 get to the front allowed us to relax a bit and gave Mark the chance to concentrate on the sprint. It was a really good sprint by Mark, beating Kristoff with 3 teammates is pretty impressive. We are really pleased, everybody had an input in today’s win so it’s nice when a plan works out.
Roger Hammond – Sport Director