DOHA (VN) — Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 3 of the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday in Mesaieed after dealing with several threats. Rival teams charged with their trains in a chaotic final kilometer, but Cavendish pounced for sprint win number two this season.
“It was really hectic,” said Cavendish. “I think every team wants to deliver their sprinter, but I think there’s this common misconception that you have to have a lead-out now.
“With about 400 [meters] to go, I was about 12 riders back, so I knew I had to go with 350 to go. I just came. [Aidis] Kruopis left his sprint late so he took me by surprise when I was coming past him so I had to accelerate again in the last 50 meters just to get by him.”
Kruopis (Orica-GreenEdge) placed third behind Markus Barry (Vacansoleil-DCM). American Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) finished in the pack to maintain his lead in the overall classification. Teammate Taylor Phinney crashed today, but appears fine with only scrapes on his right shin. He sits six seconds back in the GC.
Cavendish said he was thrilled to pay back Omega Pharma for the team’s support. The Belgian squad signed him over the winter after the world’s number one sprinter annulled his contract with Sky.
He revealed, however, that winning Milan-San Remo for a second time is not a priority — or even a goal.
“It’s not a big priority for me anymore,” Cavendish said. “I’ll race it, but it’s not a big objective at the beginning of the year; it’s too difficult.”
Cavendish lost ground last year on the Le Mànie climb. He said in a training camp last month that the climb, which organizers added in 2008, is too much for him.
“I’m not looking forward to Milan-San Remo,” he said. “I’ve written it off for the last month, it’s not really a race for me anymore. I just want to continue to win where I can up until the Tour de France and be successful there.”
He may be bluffing, as he did in 2009 before he won by a nose over Heinrich Haussler. It seems logical that Cavendish will be Omega Pharma’s point of reference for “la classica di Primavera” with Tom Boonen recovering from elbow surgery.
In past years, Cavendish always proved ready for the challenge. With Sky putting its efforts behind the yellow jersey last year, he still managed to go home with three stage wins in the Tour de France. He won the green jersey and the world title in 2011, and, after bluffing, San Remo in 2009.
He explained to VeloNews on Tuesday morning that he was getting comfortable in the Belgian team.
“You know it’s a good atmosphere when a half-hour, 45 minutes after dinner you’re still at the table talking,” he said.
Cavendish looked to his tall Belgian mates, including Stijn Vandenbergh at six-foot-five, and added, “It’s really good, you know. They are strong, strong guys.”
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck was due to lead him into the final today. However, Cavendish said that he broke a spoke and the job was left to Dutch champion Niki Terpstra.
The train’s order, he said this morning, was not so important. He added that Qatar is not practice for his bigger goals.
“You don’t need to do that,” Cavendish said, “just because Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) tweets about how great the Lotto leadout is. You don’t need to work too hard about it. The biggest ingredient in a lead-out is a commitment. That’s it.”
Cavendish handled BMC Racing, Orica, NetApp-Endura and Saxo-Tinkoff in the last kilometer. With such cool-headedness in a chaotic situation, it would be a shame not to have him contest San Remo.
We will start to see if Cavendish is truly bluffing in next month’s Tirreno-Adriatico, the traditional stage race lead up to “La Classicissima.”