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Boonen still in gold as Cavendish wins stage in Qatar

AL KHOR, Qatar (AFP) — Belgium’s Tom Boonen, riding for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, retained the race leader’s gold jersey after Thursday’s fifth and penultimate stage of the Tour of Qatar won by Mark Cavendish.

Camels greeted the riders at the start of the 160km stage from Camel Race Track to Al Khor. The tailwind kept the pace high at the start. Five riders broke away after five kilometers. The riders in the breakaway, Wagner (RNT), Bodnar (LIQ), Kuchynski (KAT) Bertolini (FAR) and Nishizono (BGT), battled it out for the first intermediate sprint, which Kuchynnski won.

Wagner took the second bonus sprint before being caught 10km from the line.

Sky rider Cavendish won his second stage of the 2012 Tour of Qatar in a sprint, beating Italy’s Daniel Oss and Slovakian Peter Sagan to the line. Cavendish is in seventh overall after today’s stage.

“The guys took it in turns to come up and keep me sheltered up at the front — I always had one of them with me at every point in those last kilometres and that was incredible,” said Cavendish. “The wind was a real factor at the end and was changing direction a lot so you couldn’t really do a big lead-out train. It was a scrap and everyone was pretty fresh. With the tailwind I could go from around 250-300 metres out and I just carried it to the line.

“It’s nice to get two wins. I won two stages here in 2009 and that was one of my most successful seasons so it’s good to get off to a great start with Team Sky and in the world champion’s jersey.”

Boonen finished 13th to retain his overall lead going into Friday’s final stage, a 120km ride from Sealine Beach Resort to Doha.

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