Tour of Qatar Stage 1: Cavendish Top 10, OPQS Leads Chase
Despite strong winds at the flat, 145.2km Stage 1 of Tour of Qatar, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team worked all day to chase back breaks and put Mark Cavendish in the best position for a potential sprint finish.
Cavendish was 6th in a stage that was decided by three breakaway riders. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) won by about a bike length out of the trio of riders, which were almost caught by the scrambling peloton in the final meters. OPQS led the peloton in a headwind, as the gap was about 45" within the final 10km. Other teams helped in the final few kilometers, getting the gap to within 25" as the break rode into the final roundabouts.
OPQS supported Cavendish in a third chase group earlier in the stage. The peloton was splintered due to crosswinds. The echelon was as much as 1'30" back from a lead group that included OPQS rider Zdenek Stybar. OPQS was able to get the second chase group back to the first, and eventually the race came back together with 10km remaining. That's when the three riders — Bookwalter, Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) and Gregory Rast (Radioshack Leopard), took a risk by attacking, and the risk was rewarded.
OPQS looks next to a 14km team time trial on Monday.