Brent Bookwalter wins stage 1 of 2013 Tour of Qatar
Team BMC Racing's American Brent Bookwalter managed to stay away from two breakaway companions and a frantically chasing peloton to take the victory in stage 1 of the 2013 Tour of Qatar.
On paper the 145 kilometer first stage from the Katara Cultural Village to Dukhan Beach appeared like the perfect opportunity for the sprint aces to score their first victory. However, the flat stage was affected by strong desert crosswinds making the prospects for Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Mark Cavendish and other sprinters less shiny.
Eventual stage winner Bookwalter and former BMC riders Martin Elmiger (IAM Pro Cycling) and Gregory Rast (Radioshack-Leopard) slipped away from the main peloton group with just 11 kilometers to go just as the front of the peloton was reforming after being sliced into pieces in the crosswinds.
The strong trio rapidly gained a 30 second lead and saw its lead peak at 45 seconds but managed to hold off a manically chasing Omega Pharma-QuickStep team which was paced by a highly motivated Cavendish.
Rast opened the sprint to the finish line for the breakaway trio, but Bookwalter had the bigger engine of the three riders and secured the victory ahead of his breakaway companions and the gasping peloton.
After the stage Bookwalter said he was hoping Rast and Elmiger would have started sprinting earlier.
"But they left it really late. They're both smart, really strong riders," Bookwalter explained and added "However, I was able to tuck in just for a second and get around them. I had been telling myself (in the final kilometers) that I was going to win, but it was a shock to see my wheel go over that (finish) line first. It was a feeling I haven't had in a really long time so it was really special and exciting."
The Albuquerque, N.M. native secured the Tour of Qatar golden leader's jersey and also earned the silver points jersey in the six-day race.
The Tour of Qatar continues Monday with a 14 kilometer team time trial. Commenting on his expectations Bookwalter told Roadcycling.com "We looked at the course yesterday and it's a pretty typical Qatar affair. It will be windy and there are a couple of corners and turnarounds, but we have a really good team for it. Today the guys were really strong and I think we'll show that again tomorrow."