DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Dutch rider Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step) claimed his second straight Tour of Qatar title on Friday after the sixth and final stage, a 113.5-kilometer ride from Sealine Beach to Doha, that was won by Ireland’s Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18).
“I’m happy to begin [the season] in good form,” said Terpstra, winner of last year’s Paris-Roubaix. “I know I don’t have to worry about that [form] so that gives me confidence.”
Terpstra, 30, finished six seconds ahead of Poland’s Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo). Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), the winner of three stages, took third, nine seconds back.
“Today was the last chance to score a stage win and that gave us the extra motivation,” Bora sport director Andre Schulze said. “Even though we modified our leadout a bit, all riders played an important role for winning the stage. We knew that a big leadout train with all riders will be less successful. So we concentrated completely on the last kilometer and we placed just two, three riders there for Sam. And it worked out perfectly.”
Four riders broke away from the gun: Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Nicola Boem and Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani-CSF). Their lead grew rapidly and reached 1:10 after 10km of racing. But the Katusha team then took command of the pack and started chasing, hoping to control the field for the intermediate sprints.
The front four reached the final circuit around the Doha Corniche with a 38-second lead. Burghardt, Van Hecke, and Boem were the first three to be caught, while Pirazzi carried on alone. The Italian was finally caught just after the third of 10 laps.
Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step) won the first bonus sprint, just ahead of Kristoff and Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quick-Step). With his two bonus seconds, Kristoff was nine seconds out of the overall lead on the road
Seventy-seven kilometers in, Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Gijs Van Hoecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) attacked. Their advantage over the pack reached 52 seconds with four laps to go.
Keisse won the second intermediate sprint, and the duo’s advantage was 45 seconds. The escapees were finally caught with over two laps to go.
In the finale, Bennett captured his first ever win in Qatar. Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) were second and third, respectively, in the bunch sprint.
“We were too tired in the end, and the team couldn’t manage to put me in a good position,” said Kristoff. “I can’t be disappointed though with three stage wins. Terpstra was too strong in the time trial, he deserves his win.”
Kristoff claimed the silver points jersey. Placing sixth overall, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) won the best young rider’s white pearl Jersey, while Etixx-Quick-Step was the best team of the 14th edition of the Tour of Qatar.
“Winning at Tour of Qatar has become a bit of a tradition for the team,” Terpstra said. “Look at the team we had this year, and we even won the team classification. … We bring big, strong guys who are specialists in the windy conditions at Tour of Qatar, and it shows every year. We have experience, and we know the roads here. It’s a bit special.”