Hepburn Wins Time Trial at Tour of Qatar 2014
Having already been crowned Australian time trial champion earlier this year, Michael Hepburn confirmed his huge potential by finishing fastest in today’s stage 3 individual time trial of the 2014 Tour of Qatar. Beating Lars Boom and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the 10.9-kilometer circuit, the Greenedge rider claimed his first success in Qatar. Finishing fifth today, Niki Terpstra gets to wear the leader’s Golden Jersey again tomorrow.
Taking off among the early riders on the day’s 10.9-kilometer circuit located by the Lusail Race track, Hepburn fired on all engines and blasted to a finishing time of just 00:13:28, thereby averaging 47.971 kilometers/hour. Just 22 years old the Australian Brisbane-native thereby added a stage victory in Qatar to his National time trial title and to his two successes conquered at the Tour de l’Avenir back in 2011.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hepburn explained to RoadCycling.com after being celebrated on the podium. “Right from the start, it was a really proud moment to ride in the national colours for the first time. I rode early in the race, so I had to wait awhile to see what my time would get me. Towards the end, when I realised that maybe I would win, the nerves really started to pick up.”
“In the last couple weeks, I have done a few training sessions specific to this stage,” Hepburn continued. “My main objective was a good, solid ride. I wasn’t really thinking about a specific place. In the back of my mind, I guess I thought if I did a good ride today, a top five would be possible. There are some big names here. I’m pretty stoked to finish on the top spot.”
The wind-swept, snake-shaped course featured several different changes in direction. Riders started with a crosswind, finished with a headwind and had a cross-tailwind between the two. Despite having set the fastest time at the half-way mark (06:42), Lars Boom proved to be slower on the second part of the course, finishing 2nd on the line, just a second behind Hepburn. In third spot was Italian Daniele Bennati, 06 seconds behind.
“It was very windy out there,” Hepburn explained. “The gusts were around 25 kilometers/hour. The first couple kilometers into the headwind were slow. The next couple kilometers were much quicker. All the time was made or lost in the final three kilometers when we had a headwind.”
Last man to start, overall leader and stage 1 winner, Niki Terpstra of the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team managed a fine performance, capturing the fifth fastest time, finishing 8 seconds slower than the winner. The Dutchman keeps his Golden Jersey and now has a 21 second lead over Lotto-Belisol's Jürgen Roelandts and 24 second lead over Boom while yesterday's stage winner Tom Boonen dropped down to fourth spot.
With two stages to go of this year's Tour of Qatar, Terpstra will still need to battle hard to defend his overall lead. He does, however, have a calming advantage. The 29-year-old also leads the points’ classification while his teammate Guillaume Van Keirsbulck is the best young rider and will wear the White Pearl Jersey in tomorrow's stage 4 from Dukhan to Mesaieed, Qatar.