Brent Bookwalter wins opening stage of Tour of Qatar as Mark Cavendish misses out
By Matt Westby - follow @MattSkyCycling. Last Updated: February 4, 2013 12:36pm
Mark Cavendish had to settle for sixth as BMC Racing's Brent Bookwalter sprinted to victory on a pulsating and wind-battered opening stage of the Tour of Qatar.
The American pipped fellow breakaway riders Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) and Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Leopard) into second and third respectively, with the rapidly closing peloton following just a handful of metres behind.
Team Sky's Bernhard Eisel sprung a surprise by outsprinting best friend and former team-mate Cavendish to claim fourth.
Cavendish appeared to have run out of steam as he approached the line, having been forced to leave his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step lead-out train behind and launch his sprint early.
An elated Bookwalter said: "I had been telling myself [in the final kilometres] that I was going to win, but it was a shock to see my wheel go over that line first. It was a feeling I haven't had in a really long time, so it was really special and exciting."
The opening stage of the race took the riders on a pan-flat 145km route 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, obliterating the peloton into three groups.
Argos-Shimano were heavily represented in the lead echelon as they looked to keep sprinter John Degenkolb at the front of the race, but Cavendish missed the split and was marooned in the second pack.
The gap opened up to about 50 seconds, with the third group a further 40 seconds back, but as the stage entered the final 25km, the advantages started to plummet and the race came back together.
Sensing a join of the first and second echelons, Eisel darted off the lead bunch with three other riders - Roy Curvers (Argos), Michael Schar (BMC) and Dominique Rollin (FDJ) - but they were soon reeled back just as the front groups united.
Attacks started pinging off the front of reformed peloton and after several failed efforts, Rast, Bookwalter and Elmiger broke clear and made their attempt it stick.
They opened up a gap of 45 seconds with 7km to go and with the sprinters' teams initially lacking urgency further back down the road, it looked like they would have an easy run to the finish line.
However, as they began a game of cat and mouse inside the last kilometre, they allowed the now marauding 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.
1 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC, 3:28.47
2 Martin Elmiger (Sui) IAM Cycling, same time
3 Gregory Rast (Sui) RadioShack-Leopard, st
4 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, st
5 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale, st
6 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
7 Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo-Tinkoff, st
8 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, st
9 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling, st
10 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ, st
1 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC, 3:28.37
2 Martin Elmiger (Sui) IAM Cycling, +4secs
3 Gregory Rast (Sui) RadioShack-Leopard, +6
4 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, +6
5 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, +6
6 John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos Shimano, +8
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, +8
8 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale, +10
9 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +10
10 Matti Breschel (Den) Saxo-Tinkoff, +10