Mark Cavendish leads Tour of Qatar after claiming second successive win
By Matt Westby - follow @MattSkyCycling. Last Updated: 06/02/13 6:58pm
Mark Cavendish moved into the overall lead of the Tour of Qatar after sealing back-to-back sprint wins with a comfortable victory on stage four.
The Manxman left his well-beaten rivals trailing as he claimed a third win of the season and 10 bonus seconds that vault him ahead of BMC's Brent Bookwalter and into the gold jersey.
The 27-year-old once again showed supreme tactical awareness and bike-handling skills as he left his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team-mates early and jumped on to another team's lead-out, before launching a dash for the line that went virtually unchallenged.
He also avoided a crash in the last 1km that wiped out a number of sprinters and also held up Bookwalter. The American was awarded the same time as the rest of the field, however, as the incident happened in the final 3km of the stage.
Cavendish now leads the race by two seconds and, with the two remaining stages both set to end in sprints, he is the clear favourite to complete an overall victory.
He said: "We will keep going for the stage wins and see what comes from that. I am really, really happy right now."
Stage four took the riders on a flat 160km route from Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche in the north of Qatar.
A trio of riders - Andriy Grivko (Astana), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) and Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling) - broke clear of the peloton and had a healthy-looking five-minute advantage going into the final 30km, but the gap tumbled at a rapid rate and they were caught just 21km later.
No one team were able to assume complete control at the head of the race, which made for a haphazard final few kilometres that culminated in the crash.
Team Sky looked in the strongest position with two riders in position to set up Edvald Boasson Hagen, but the Norwegian lost all of his momentum when FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni cut across his path.
That opened the door for Cavendish, who was being shepherded by team-mate Niki Terpstra but left his wheel to move into the slipstream of an overtaking Cannondale rider.
In the absence of anyone launching the sprint, Cavendish went himself and although Vacasoleil-DCM's Barry Markus followed close behind, the former world champion's victory was never in doubt and he won by half a bike length.
He added: "I used the same tactics I did last year when I won on the same stage. The wind came from the right, everyone goes right, so I went left, and was shielded. So I got the perfect position and acceleration in the sprint to get the win."
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma -Quick-Step, 3:30.05; 2 Barry Markus (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM, same time; 3 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana, st; 4 Filippo Fortin (Ita) Bardiani Valvole - CSF Inox, st; 5 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st; 6 Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Saxo-Tinkoff, st; 7 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, st; 8 Aidis Kruopis (Lit) Orica-GreenEDGE, st; 9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky, st; 10 Davide Appollonio (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma -Quick-Step, 10:20.01; 2 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC, +2secs; 3 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, +8; 4 Adam Blythe (GB) BMC, +9; 5 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, +12; 6 Michael Schar (Sui) BMC, +12; 7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, +13; 8 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Team Sky, +14; 9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky, +16; 10 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +17