MADINAT AL-SHAMAL, Qatar (AFP) — Norway’s Alexander Kristoff was on the mark for the third time in the Tour of Qatar on Thursday, claiming the fifth stage.
The Katusha rider, who had previously won Stages 2 and 4, prevailed in a sprint at the end of the 153-kilometer ride from Al Zubarah Fort to Madinat Al Shamal.
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) crossed the line in second, with Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) of Germany third.
The Etixx-Quick-Step team broke the peloton into several echelons early in another windy day in the desert. About 40 riders made the front group, including race leader Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step), points competition leader Kristoff, Luke Rowe (Team Sky), as well as Sagan, and Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step).
Several notables were left stranded in the chasing group, including Tinkoff-Saxo’s Maciej Bodnar, who is second-place overall, and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Fortunately for them, the gap never went over 35 seconds. Eventually, after 62 kilometers, the peloton bunched up again.
Just a few kilometers later, five men broke away: Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), Marco Haller (Katusha), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), Jelle Wallays (Topsport-Vlaanderen Baloise) and Matthew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge). This leading quintet enjoyed a 50-second advantage after 80 kilometers of racing. At the first intermediate sprint (87km), won by Hayman ahead of Wallays and Gruzdev, the pack was 1:38 adrift. The gap reached a maximum 2:35 at 102 kilometers before the chase intensified.
At the second bonus sprint (126km), also claimed by Hayman, the peloton closed in to just 38 seconds behind. The front five were caught with just over one lap to go of the final circuit. In the final 10 kilometers, Tinkoff-Saxo went to the front and 10 men powered away, including Kristoff and Bodnar . They had a slim 15-second lead but were caught before the finale.
In the end, Kristoff mastered another bunch gallop in Qatar, adding a third stage win to his trophy case.
Dutch rider Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step) had a scare in the final lap, missing the 10-rider move that threatened to go to the line, but he retained the overall lead after the bunch regrouped, six seconds clear of Bodnar and 11 seconds up on Kristoff. Sagan is back into the lead of the young rider’s classification.
The race concludes with Friday’s 113km stage 6 that starts in Sealine Beach Resort and finishes with 10 circuits around Doha Corniche.
Kristoff has a chance to snatch the overall win in Qatar if he takes the final stage and is able to pick off time bonuses in the two intermediate sprints. The sprints offer three-, two-, and one-second GC time bonuses to first through third places, respectively, and the stage winner gets a 10-second time bonus.
Second place on the stage gets a six-second bonus, and third receives a four-second bonus. He could also pull past Terpstra with wins in both intermediate sprints and second place at the finish, assuming that the current leader does not accrue any bonus time.