Mark Cavendish seals Tour of Qatar victory with fourth win in a row on stage six
By Matt Westby - follow @MattSkyCycling. Last Updated: February 8, 2013 4:33pm
Mark Cavendish recovered from an early crash to complete a dominant overall victory at the Tour of Qatar with a fourth sprint win in a row.
It is only the second time the 27-year-old has topped a general classification in his career and he now has six wins to his name already this season.
His margin of overall victory was 25 seconds over Brent Bookwalter (BMC), while Adam Blythe (BMC) made it two Britons in the top five by finishing fourth, 30 seconds behind his compatriot.
"[There was] a little bit of pressure on me and I was a bit nervous. But I'm really happy to get the win."
But it could have been very different for the Manxman, after he was brought down by a fallen rider in a "freak accident" inside the first 15km that left him "banged up" and "twisted".
It was a major scare given that only a serious crash or remarkable sequence of results could deny him overall victory, but he was unscathed enough to remount his bike and rejoin the peloton, which had slowed to wait for him.
Cavendish's subsequent sprint win was once again all of his own making; abandoning his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team-mates after they became swallowed up in a hectic fight for position, before emerging unseen from the slipstream of rivals.
He then powered over the line a wheel's length ahead of Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM) as he reasserted his status as the world's No 1 sprinter.
'Over the moon'
"I'm over the moon," he said. "[There was] a little bit of pressure on me and I was a bit nervous. But I'm really happy to get the win.
"I am so happy and proud I can bring it home again for the team again. We have won Tour of Qatar six times, and I don't know how many stages, so I am happy to be a part of that."
Of the crash, he added: "I was riding on someone's wheel and he just went down. That's bike racing. It was a freak accident. I'm a bit banged up, but I'm OK."
The final stage took the riders on a flat, 116km route starting at the Sealine Beach Resort and finishing with 10 laps of a 6km circuit around Doha Corniche.
In the absence of any purposeful breakaway, the peloton entered the final 30km with Omega Pharma - Quick-Step in control at the front. But as the pace quickened in the closing stages, other teams took up the initiative and the Belgian squad fell back down to the pack.
Cavendish, though, has proved the master of positioning in Qatar and used other teams' lead-out trains on the left-hand flank of the peloton as the springboard for his sprint.
Victory at the Tour of Qatar joins his win at last summer's Ster ZLM Tour as his only stage-race triumphs. He also topped the points classification, with BMC winning the team classification ahead of Team Sky.
Cavendish added: "The guys had been a bit used up for working for me all day and the entire race, so I knew I can kind of just go alone, leave it late and come up the left side again. That is exactly what I did.
"I knew they would go right, and I could just use other lead-outs to move up in the last 300m and jump on the left-hand side."
Stage six result
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 2:24.31; 2 Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Ag2r-La Mondiale, same time; 3 Barry Markus (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM, st; 4 Adam Blythe (GB) BMC, st; 5 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, st; 6 Kenny van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM, st; 7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st; 8 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, st; 9 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, st; 10 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale, st.
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma -Quick-Step, 15:55.20; 2 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC, +25secs; 3 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, +26; 4 Adam Blythe (GB) BMC, +30; 5 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, +32; 6 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, +32; 7 Michael Schar (Sui) BMC, +35; 8 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky, +39; 9 Luke Rowe (GB) Team Sky, +40; 10 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +40