Eisel fourth in Qatar
Austrian outsprints Cavendish on stage one
Last Updated: February 4, 2013 8:11pm
Eisel: Solid start to the Tour of Qatar
Bernhard Eisel outsprinted former team-mate Mark Cavendish to claim fourth place on stage one of the Tour of Qatar.
On a day ravaged by crosswinds, the Austrian also surprised Saxo-Tinkoff’s Matti Breschel as he crossed the line first among the chasing pack.
The stage was won by American Brent Bookwalter (BMC), who beat fellow escapees Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) and Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Leopard) in a sprint after a thrilling finale to the stage.
The trio broke clear of the peloton with around 10km to go and opened up a gap of 45 seconds at its peak.
However, as they began a game of cat and mouse inside the last kilometre, they allowed the main bunch to catch back up and Eisel was only a handful of metres behind when he led Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Cavendish over the line.
The opening stage of the race took the riders 145km from Katara Cultural Village in Doha to Dukhan Beach on Qatar’s west coast.
The Gulf state is notorious for its crosswinds and they duly had a huge impact on the opening stage, obliterating the peloton into three groups.
Three Team Sky riders – Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Eisel – were alert to the split and joined around 20 other riders in the front echelon, while Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mathew Hayman and Gabriel Rasch formed part of a second bunch.
The gap between the first and second groups initially stretched to 45 seconds, but as the race entered the final 25km, the advantage started to plummet.
Eisel - who picked up four valuable bonus seconds during the stage to end the day six seconds behind Bookwalter - was one of four riders who sensed the imminent joining of the two echelons and consequently darted off the front to form a fresh breakaway.
However, their efforts were in vain and the newly reformed peloton soon reeled them back in.
That triggered a spate of short-lived attacks, before Bookwalter, Rast and Elmiger finally broke clear and managed to hang on by the narrowest of margins.
After the race, Sports Director Servais Knaven was happy his riders had managed to position themselves well when the peloton split, but was disappointed not to haul back the breakaway group.
He said: “It was a very hard day with a lot of wind, which split the peloton open. Everybody had to race hard and fight for position all day.
“We knew it would be tough because when the wind is strong like it was, it becomes an important general classification day.
“But the guys were prepared and ready to go and when the peloton split open, we managed to get guys in the front group.
“It was a pity at the end that the breakaway group couldn’t be closed down, but it’s one of the first races of the year, everybody was tired and the teams could not bring them back.
“It’s a shame because there were only three riders in the break, so if we could have caught them, Bernie could have been on the podium.
“But Bernie was still really happy with fourth. He had really good legs today. He is in really good form. He is riding for the GC.”
Team time trial
Looking ahead to Monday's team time trial, Knaven hopes his riders can carry over the strong legs they showed on stage one to pick up some crucial time on the GC.
He added: “We have a strong team here, but it is only 14km and there will be a lot of wind again.
“But the guys have good legs, so we could get a good result and claim some seconds on the GC. That’s pretty important.”