Francesco Chicchi won the fourth stage of the Tour of Qatar in a field sprint ahead of Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo) and JJ Haedo (Saxo Bank). Race leader Wouter Mol (Vacansoleil) finished in the front group to retain the gold jersey.
In the final sprint alongside the gulf water’s edge, Cervélo’s track star-turned roadie Theo Bos opened up the sprint, but it was Liquigas’ Chicchi who punched the accelerator when it counted.
Chicchi, wearing a black armband in memory of the late Franco Ballerini, pointed to the armband and then the sky as he coasted across the finish.
“We wanted to win for Franco,” Chicchi said of the former Italian team coach. “This win is for him.”
Quick Step’s Tom Boonen, winner of the previous day’s stage and a three-time champion of the overall in Qatar, finished eleventh. American under-23 rider Taylor Phinney (Trek-Livestrong) placed eighth, his second top-10 finish in as many days.
In the closing kilometers as the peloton wound up the speed, Garmin’s Tyler Farrar suffered the first of what would be four flat tires on the day. At 20km to go he flatted his rear tire. He got a quick change and chased back on. At 14km to go he again flatted his rear, and this time screeched to a halt alongside the sandy road, as did teammate Murilo Fischer who quickly gave up his own wheel and pushed Farrar once he was back on his bike. Then, with about 4km to go, Farrar hit a big hole and both his tires went flat.
“It was ridiculous, but at least we all finished upright today,” said Farrar, who has lost two teammates to broken bones in as many days.
An early break went clear virtually from the start, and stayed away until 14km to go in the 147km stage. Trek-Livestrong’s Jesse Sergeant, BMC’s Martin Kohler and Topsport’s Sep Vanmarcke rode together for the duration of the break.