DOHA, February 11, 2016 – Boasson Hagen had been talked up as one of the pre-stage favourites and he didn’t fail to deliver. The seven-time Norwegian national champion looked smooth as he made his way around course by the Lusail motor circuit, catching not only his minute-man but his two-minute-man Marko Kump. Despite his prolific record in the national championships, his victory in Qatar is his first individual time trial victory in international competition since the Eneco Tour 2009.
Boasson Hagen began the day in fifth place at 18 seconds down on his teammate and race leader Mark Cavendish. However, his ride was strong enough to not only leapfrog Cavendish but ensure himself a buffer of 26 seconds going into the final two stages. Cavendish was the final rider off the ramp in the leader’s gold jersey. The Manxman had played down any chances of keeping the jersey after the stage but put in a solid performance to finish seventh on the day and keep himself within sight of a podium finish.
Quinziato’s third place was enough to move him into the same position in the overall classification just six seconds behind Cavendish. His teammate Greg Van Avermaet was not too far behind and now sits fourth in standings, setting up a nice battle between BMC and Dimension Data in the last two stages.
The big loser of the day was Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who began the day in second overall after his victory on stage 2. He now sits 45 seconds behind his compatriot after losing nearly a minute in the time trial.
Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) kicked things off on Wednesday afternoon at the Lusail motor circuit. The 11-kilometre route was far from simple with several sharp bens to contend with on the way around. Jesse Sergent (AG2R-La Mondiale), was the first of the specialists to complete the course and set the early pace with a time of 14:24:59. That was emphatically beaten by former Dutch national champion Lieuwe Westra, who took some 15 seconds off the New Zelander’s time.
Westra’s compatriot Van Emden set off some 46 minutes later, setting the fastest time at the intermediate checkpoint. By the finish, he had cut down the leading time by a further 18 seconds. Van Emden would have been justified in thinking that he had done enough to take home the victory but his time was brushed aside by a determined Boasson Hagen.
The final two stages of the Tour of Qatar are set to be sprint stages but that could change if the wind becomes a factor as it often does.