Kristoff Takes Third Victory at Tour of Qatar
It appears there's no stopping Norway's Alexander Kristoff and his Russian Katusha Team.
After a remarkable battle initiated in the first kilometers of today's stage 5 of Tour of Qatar 2015, a unified peloton reached the final circuit route around Madinat Al Shamal. Like yesterday, Norway's Alexander Kristoff claimed the stage win for his Russian Katusha team in impressive fashion. The finish, however, was very close in today's stage and a photo finish was required to determine the correct winner.
Peter Sagan finished millimeters behind the stage winner for his Russian Team Tinkoff Bank - Saxo Bank, while Nikias Arndt again finished third for Team Giant-Alpecin. Kristoff captured his third stage success on the 2015 Tour of Qatar. Despite a fright in the closing moments of the race, Niki Terpstra managed to finish in the pack and retains his overall leader’s Golden Jersey.
Today's weather conditions were sunny and windy as usual in Qatar, so the 139 remaining riders in this year's Tour of Qatar were all wearing sunglasses at the stage start near the Al Zubarah Fort. On today's menu was a 153 kilometer stage, which took the riders south-east at first, before returning to the fort and finishing on a circuit around Madinat Al Shamal.
Team Etixx-QuickStep took advantage of the windy conditions in the first kilometers to accelerate and split the peloton into several echelons. Just under 40 riders were present at the front including Etixx - QuickStep's race leader Niki Terpstra, points classification leader Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and best young rider Luke Rowe of Team Sky Pro Cycling. Also included were Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step). Several big names, however, were left stranded in the chasing group including Maciej Bodnar, who was ranked second in the general classification before today's stage, and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).
A tremendous battle went on between the two groups of riders at an average speed of close to 50 km/h. The gap, however, never increased to more than 35 seconds. Eventually, after 62 kilometers of bike battle, the peloton bunched up together.
Just a few kilometers later, five riders managed to break away from the peloton. Hermans (BMC Racing Team), Haller (Katusha), Gruzdev (Astana), Wallays (Topsport V) and Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge). This leading quintet enjoyed a 50 second advantage at kilometer 80. At the first intermediate sprint (kilometer 87), which was won by Hayman ahead of Wallays and Gruzdev, the pack was 1 minute and 38 seconds behind. The gap reached a maximum of 2 minutes and 35 seconds at kilometer 102 before the chase intensified.
At the second bonus sprint (kilometer 126), won by Hayman in front of Wallays and Gruzdev, the peloton had gotten dangerously close and was just 38 seconds behind. The front five were eventually caught at kilometer 135 with just over one lap to go. In the final ten kilometers, the Russian Tinkoff-Saxo squad pushed harder, but ten riders powered away: Tom Boonen, Van Keirsbulcke (Etixx-QuickStep), Sagan, Bodnar, Matti Breschel (Tinkoff Bank - Saxo Bank), Kristoff, Bystrom, Guarnieri, Paolini (Katusha) and Blythe (Orica-GreenEdge), but no Niki Tersptra. Despite enjoying a slim 15 second advantage, the front group was however caught before the final decision was to be made.
At the end of the long straight in Madinat Al Shamal, Alexander Kristoff again proved he is the fastest sprinter of the 2015 Tour of Qatar peloton. Like on the previous day in Mesaieed, the Norwegian beat Peter Sagan and Nikias Arndt to the line, capturing his third stage success in this year's race. Thanks to his victory, last year's winner of Milan – San Remo moves up to third spot in the general classification. Finishing in the pack, Niki Terpstra keeps his golden leader's jersey and with one stage to go enjoys a 6 second advantage over Bodnar and 11 seconds over Kristoff. The best young rider is now Peter Sagan.
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