The 4th stage of the Tour of Qatar saw Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) win a select group sprint ahead of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Jacopo Guarnieri (Katusha).
It would be a dramatic finish to the 4th stage of the Tour of Qatar as our race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen punctured with just 8km to go while in a select front split of just 25 odd riders. The split happened with around 14km to go when LottoNL-Jumbo surged to the front of the race after our African Team had done a great job controlling proceedings for the first 170km of the stage with Mekseb Debesay and Matt Brammeier.
Initially it was a good situation for our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka boys as Boasson Hagen and Mark Cavendish easily made the front echelon when the peloton broke into pieces. Unfortunately, our Norwegian champion couldn’t have had a worse timed puncture as he lost the air in his front wheel with just 8km left to race.
BMC then came to the front, trying to capitalise on Boasson Hagen’s misfortune by driving the front group as hard as they could along with the LottoNL-Jumbo team. This played right into the hands of Katusha though as they could concentrate on organising the leadout for Kristoff. They did this with such effectiveness from 2km out, that it was only 4 riders that crossed the line together on the same time as Kristoff at the end of the stage.
Vastly outnumbered in the front group while the rest of our team tried to get Boasson Hagen back, Cavendish could only sit on the wheels of BMC and Katusha, crossing the line in 5th place. By the time Boasson Hagen crossed the line riding Youcef Reguigui’s bike, 45 seconds had already passed. This meant the Norwegian drops to 5th on the general classification.
The good news of the day for our African Team though is that Boasson Hagen gave up his top spot on the general classification to teammate, Cavendish. With just 2 seconds separating Cavendish and Van Avermaet in the overall, there is all to play for during tomorrow’s final 114km stage to Doha.
Mark Cavendish – Rider
It was horrible to lose 1st and 2nd on GC in such a disappointing way. Edvald punctured in the last 10km and unfortunately Lotto Jumbo went full gas, BMC as well but obviously they had a reason to but Lotto Jumbo don’t have anyone on GC so it was a bit sad. All the guys waited for Edvald to try and bring him back. It was a full cross-tail finish so it means you need a full team with you otherwise you just going to be hammered in the gutter. So we put all our eggs in Edvald’s basket and I knew I just needed to bury myself deep and we’d still hang onto the jersey anyway. The team rode incredibly strongly today. Matt and Mekseb controlled the race alone, with no help from any other teams and that was awesome to see for 190km. Honestly we got to pay back the good work the guys have done all week and hold on to the jersey tomorrow.
Roger Hammond – Sport Director
It’s a bit sad that after the team rode incredibly strongly all day, not getting any help from any other teams, that the only difference separating us from having complete control today was the double puncture. If you not winning because you not good enough that is one thing but just through a puncture, well that’s just disappointing.