Unassuming Start to Tour of Qatar

Sun 9 Feb 2014

A five rider breakaway contested the first stage of the Tour of Qatar. Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) crossed the finish line first, 1” before Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) in second and Michael Schär (BMC) in third. The peloton followed 7” behind Terpstra with Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) winning the sprint for sixth place. Aidis Kruopis was our top finisher on stage one, sixth in the bunch kick, good for 12th place on the stage.

The first stage was the usual wind-swept Qatari affair. With several teams pushing the pace, the peloton shattered and five distinct groups took shape. Eventually three of the groups merged, leaving two groups out on the road when Terpstra and company slipped up the road.

With Kruopis, Jens Mouris, Mathew Hayman, Brett Lancaster and Leigh Howard amongst the first main bunch, ORICA-GreenEDGE gave chase. Although the team’s efforts slowly ate into the leader’s advantage, they needed help from other teams to shut down the move. While Team Sky, Belkin and Tinkoff-Saxo eventually began to chase, it was too little, too late. The break managed to evade the field all the way to the line in Dukhan Beach.

Terpstra holds a healthy advantage heading into stage two with 23” over the main field including Kruopis, Mouris, Hayman and Lancaster and a 9” lead over Roelandts in second place.

Comments from Laurenzo Lapage on stage one:

The plan today was to have numbers in the group at the finish and then go into the sprint with Kruopis. We had a very hard wind today. There was a crosswind early and in the last 25 kilometre, we had a strong headwind. The damage was done in the crosswinds.

We assumed responsibility for the chase when the five leaders that broke away late in the race had gained 25”. We had the idea that some other team would come up to help but that didn’t happen. Once we decided to stop doing all the work on our own, we knew that the breakaway, with so many strong riders, had a big chance to stay away. This was the same scenario as last year.

We had talked about our overall ambitions. If Niki Terpstra doesn’t have a technical problem on any really important moments in the race, he has already half of the win in his hands. He has a strong team behind him, and he’s good against the clock. Even with this, we will still give it our best shot.