Tour of Qatar – Blythe & Stannard in Top 10 on Stage 2


Adam Blythe and Ian Stannard in the top 10 after smashfest second stage in Tour of Qatar – Kristoff wins and leads

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Tour of Qatar – Blythe & Stannard in Top 10 on Stage 2

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Day two of the Tour of Qatar was the scene of one of the most spectacular stages in the history of the event. A sand storm hit the peloton in the first hour of what was to be an action packed stage. After a tremendous battle between the teams of the favourites, fifteen men including Adam Blythe, Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard eventually made it clear to the finish in Al Khor where Alexander Kristoff conquered his first ever stage in Qatar.

The Norwegian beat Guardini and Van Avermaet on his way to conquering the overall leader’s Golden Jersey.


“It was a very long sprint” said the stage winner. “I bridged up to Terpstra and Guardini who had a little gap and with 500 meters to go I went full gas. I felt I had it under control but Guardini is a fast guy, I was only sure when I crossed the finish line. I am really happy today with this victory”.

“Finally I managed to win here in Qatar! It was a really hard day, but my legs were ok. I felt good during the whole stage and my team supported me. The guys really did excellent work today as well as yesterday, too. They kept me safe all day and I could save some energy for the final. Of course, in the final I was a little bit tired, but I think everyone in the group was in same condition, because last part of the stage was hard. But I was able to win the sprint and this is great! This is my earliest victory ever in my career and I am happy. The windy conditions today suited me very well. In Norway I live at the coast. We even have more wind there”.

Former winne Tom Boonen explained “Today was a windy stage, but there was also a lot of sand blowing with the wind,” Boonen said. “It was a sand storm at the start. The conditions were heavy and there were also a lot of kilometres to cover. It was a long, hard day and at the end it was a very demanding race”.

“We controlled well and I think in the end, with three guys in the 15 who decided the stage, I think the situation wasn’t bad at all. But with how demanding the race was I think we were all a bit tired in the end. Kristoff deserved the win today”.

“The guy with a little bit in the reserves won. I’ll do my best in the time trial tomorrow, even if it doesn’t suit my skills. Niki Terpstra is also close in the GC and think the defending overall winner can be a factor again this year.”

Third placed Van Avermaet “It was a hard sprint with the tailwind,” Van Avermaet said. “They surprised us a little from the back so I had to close the gap and then Kristoff started his sprint. So it was hard to come over him. I think I did a good sprint to get third place.”

Desert Storm

While the riders had struggled against the wind on stage 1, the conditions were a lot more favourable for the second and longest day of the event: a 187.5 ride from the Al Wakra harbour to the corniche in Al Khor. The 141 riders at the start knew the wind would make the day a fast one, little had they imagined that a sand storm would hit the pack as soon as they left Al Wakra.

Straight from the start, making the best of the strong tailwind, the favourites’ teams moved to the front and manage to break the pack apart. At the front of the wind and sand swept race, where the likes of Golden Jersey Rojas, title holder Terpstra, four-time winner Boonen, as well as Sagan, Cancellara, Kristoff, Blythe and Haussler. The front group’s lead grew to 45” over the first chasing bunch but things calmed down and the peloton bunched up again at km 50 for the end of Round 1.

It was then the turn of five men to break away at km 51: Morkov (TCS),Van Avermaet (BMC), Van Zyl (MTN), Wallays (TSV) and Hayman (OGE). Their advantage grew to a 1’10 at km 68 just before poor old Wallays was hit by a puncture. The front four continued their efforts and the gap reached 3’50 at km 102. At the first intermediate sprint (km 108.5), won by Van Avermaet ahead of Hayman and Morkov, the gap had dropped down to 3’30.

Round 2 of the battle between favourites could then commence. Led by the riders of Etixx Quickstep, around forty riders powered away. The only big names missing where Kittel (TGA), Wiggins (SKY) and Valverde (MOV). Meanwhile, the front five saw their lead drop down dramatically. They were finally caught by the Golden Jersey group at km 123. Sixty riders eventually bunched up together again before another big explanation occurred. This time 36 strong men made a difference.

A decisive move that Cancellara (TFR), Kittel (TGA), Bouhanni (COF), Valverde (MOV and Wiggins (SKY) missed out on. The second bonus sprint (km 157.5) was clinched by Boonen (EQS) ahead of Maes (EQS) and Burghardt (BMC). As the pace continued being impressive, several riders failed to keep up. White Pearl Jersey Arnaud Démare (FDJ) was the first to be dropped. Then came the turn of overall leader José Joaquin Rojas. The Golden Jersey would never manage to move back to the front. With 25 kilometres to go, only 15 riders remained at the front: Terpstra, Boonen, Maes (EQS), Sagan, Bodnar (TCS), Stuyven (TFR), Burghardt, Van Avermaet (BMC), Kristoff (KAT), Guardini, Tleubayev (AST), Rowe, Stannard (SKY), Blythe (OGE) and Haussler (IAM).

The front group remained together all the way to the Al Khor Corniche. Despite a few attempts, victory was to be decided after a group sprint. Without the slightest team mate, an exhausted Alexander Kristoff flew to victory claiming his first ever success in his sixth appearance at the Tour of Qatar.

Winner of Milan-San Remo and two stages of the Tour de France last year, the 27-year-old Norwegian adds a prestigious win to his victory record by beating Guardini and Van Avermaet to the line. Kristoff takes command of the GC with a 1” lead over Boonen and 3” over Van Avermaet and will be wearing the Golden Jersey on tomorrow’s individual time-trial. Fifth on the day, Tom Boonen captures the Silver Jersey (points classification) while Peter Sagan claims the White Pearl Jersey for the best young rider.

ORICA-GreenEDGE debutant Adam Blythe finished seventh and for the second day running, Ride London Classic winner Blythe rode himself into good position at the pointy end of racing. He now sits 10seconds off the overall lead.” Team Sky’s Brits Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe also showed themselves to be in fine fettle ahead of the classics season.

“I think ‘smashfest’ pretty much sums up today’s stage,” Rowe explained to after the dust (and sand) had settled. “As soon as the flag dropped, it split into five or six groups and that was it for the first 80km. Then it all came back together. I was in the front when it split the first time and then once it was back together it split again quite soon after. And that was the race pretty much done.”

“It kept splitting again and again and narrowing down. It whittled down to 15 guys left at the finish with me and Stannard. It was a big day out for us! They couldn’t actually televise the race because of the sand storms. There was actually sand residue building up on the road in the cross-wind sections”.

“Every now and then you’d be going 65-70km/h and you’d hit a layer of sand and be going sideways. The visibility was terrible too so it was quite epic. There was a 7km neutral section and we all knew that as soon as the race started it would split. It was the most nervous neutral section I’ve ever done!”

“But it’s just one of those things. You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time and have the legs to back it up. Luckily me and Ian did. We spoke and neither of us had much left coming into the finish to contest the sprint. But on the positive side of it we’ve got good positions to go for this time trial tomorrow. I think Stannard can definitely get up there and be not far off the win. For myself hopefully I can be in a top-10 position this time tomorrow night. That’s the goal and I think it’s realistic.”

1. Alexander Kristoff, Team Katusha 3:49:51
2. Andrea Guardini, Astana Pro Team
3. Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing Team
4. Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Tom Boonen, Etixx – Quick-Step
6. Heinrich Haussler, IAM Cycling
7. Adam Blythe, Orica GreenEdge
8. Marcus Burghardt, BMC Racing Team
9. Jasper Stuyven, Trek Factory Racing
10. Ian Stannard, Team Sky

13. Luke Rowe, Team Sky
21. Philippe Gilbert, BMC Racing Team @ 15 secs
30. Andrew Fenn, Team Sky
38. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar Team @3.08
41. Scott Thwaites, Bora-Argon 18
43. Nacer Bouhanni, Cofidis, Solutions Credits
76. Zakkari Dempster, Bora-Argon 18
84. Edvald Boasson Hagen, MTN – Qhubeka @9.18
98. Marcel Kittel, Team Giant-Alpecin
109. Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky

1. Alexander Kristoff, Team Katusha 7:39:31
2. Tom Boonen, Etixx – Quick-Step 0:00:01
3. Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing Team 0:00:03
4. Andrea Guardini, Astana Pro Team 0:00:04
5. Niki Terpstra, Etixx – Quick-Step 0:00:08
6. Marcus Burghardt, BMC Racing Team 0:00:09
7. Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:10
8. Heinrich Haussler, IAM Cycling
9. Jasper Stuyven, Trek Factory Racing
10. Maciej Bodnar, Tinkoff-Saxo
11. Luke Rowe, Team Sky
12. Ian Stannard, Team Sky
13. Adam Blythe, Orica GreenEdge

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