x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tom Boonen’s early form at Tour of Qatar shows promise

Belgium’s Tom Boonen, swept along by high winds, claimed the Tour of Qatar’s fourth and penultimate stage on Wednesday by a matter of centimetres from Germany’s Andre Greipel.

Tom Boonen, right, celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win Stage 4 of the Tour of Qatar cycling race. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters
Tom Boonen, right, celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win Stage 4 of the Tour of Qatar cycling race. Mohammed Dabbous / Reuters

Belgium’s Tom Boonen, swept along by high winds, claimed the Tour of Qatar’s fourth and penultimate stage Wednesday by a matter of centimetres from Germany’s Andre Greipel.

The Omega Pharma rider, who also took Monday’s second stage, moved up from fourth to second, 17 seconds adrift of teammate Niki Terpstra in the overall standings with only Thursday’s final stage remaining.

Boonen won the blustery, 135-kilometre ride from Dukhan to Mesaeeid in a bunched sprint finish, denying Greipel by just five centimetres, with Barry Markus of the Netherlands third.

The riders were pushed by the strong winds on their backs to produce a fast-average pace of 56.8kph.

The stage finished 35 minutes quicker than forecast catching, among others, catering staff in the riders’ village unawares.

This was the 22nd stage win in Qatar for Boonen, 33, where he is seeking to add to his previous wins in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012.

“With this wind on your back we were really made to suffer,” said the evergreen Belgian after a tiring day’s riding. “To control the peloton that is going so fast is no easy thing to do.

“Once again, we’ll sleep well tonight.”

The French sprinter Arnaud Demare, who was seventh, said: “Our legs were sometimes doing 110 turns per minute.”

Boonen’s performance this week has proved he is back in form after missing the second half of last season, including the world championships in Florence, with a saddle injury.

“I really like the 2014 Boonen, as it takes after the 2012 model,” said Patrick Lefevere, the Omega Pharma manager, recalling that Boonen won four races two seasons ago.

The race concludes today with a 159km ride from Al Zubara Fort to Madinat Al Shamal.

Elsewhere, the Belgian Gianni Meersman claimed the Alcudia Trophy on the final day of the Mallorca Challenge.

He narrowly defeated the Spaniard Jose Francisco Ventoso and Britain’s Ben Swift in a sprint to the line to win the 162km ride from Muro to Alcudia in a time just over three hours, 50 minutes.

It was a second consecutive day that the Omega Pharma team came out on top; Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski won the Serra de Tramuntana Trophy on Tuesday.

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