Cavendish wins Tour of Qatar
Mark Cavendish completed a dominant overall victory at the Tour of Qatar by sprinting to a fourth consecutive stage win on the final day of the race.
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It is only the second time the 27-year-old has topped a general classification in his career and he now has six wins to his name already this season.
His margin of overall victory was 25 seconds over Brent Bookwalter (BMC), while Adam Blythe (BMC) made it two Britons in the top five by finishing fourth, 30 seconds down on his compatriot.
Cavendish's latest stage win was once again all of his own making; abandoning his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team-mates after they became swallowed up in a hectic fight for position, before emerging unseen from the slipstream of rivals to mount an unstoppable dash for the line.
The Isle of Man rider had all but sewn up race victory by winning Thursday's penultimate stage and only had to avoid crashing on the concluding day to confirm victory.
However, he is enjoying superb early-season form and once again reasserted his status as the world's No 1 sprinter with a wheel-length win over Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM).
The final stage took the riders on a flat, 116km route starting at the Sealine Beach Resort and finishing with 10 laps of a 6km circuit around Doha Corniche.
In the absence of any purposeful breakaway, the peloton entered the final 30km with Omega Pharma - Quick-Step in control at the front. But as the pace quickened in the closing stages, other teams took up the initiative and the Belgian squad fell back down to the pack.
Cavendish, though, has proved the master of positioning in Qatar and used other teams' lead-out trains on the left-hand flank of the peloton as the springboard for his sprint.
Victory at the Tour of Qatar joins his win at last summer's Ster ZLM Tour as his only stage-race triumphs.
Cavendish also topped the points classification, with BMC winning the team classification ahead of Team Sky.
"I'm over the moon," Cavendish said in an Omega Pharma-QuickStep media release.
"We come here every year almost guaranteed an overall victory with Tom Boonen, but he's recovering from an injury. So it put a little bit of pressure on me and I was a bit nervous.
"But I'm really happy to get the win. The guys worked incredible here. They really looked after me so, so well here and delivered every single day.
"I am so happy and proud I can bring it home again for the team.
"We've won the Tour of Qatar six times, and I don't know how many stages, so I am happy to be a part of that."
Stage six result
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 2:24.31; 2 Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Ag2r-La Mondiale, same time; 3 Barry Markus (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM, st; 4 Adam Blythe (GB) BMC, st; 5 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, st; 6 Kenny van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM, st; 7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st; 8 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, st; 9 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ, st; 10 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale, st.
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma -Quick-Step, 15:55.20; 2 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC, +25secs; 3 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, +26; 4 Adam Blythe (GB) BMC, +30; 5 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, +32; 6 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, +32; 7 Michael Schar (Sui) BMC, +35; 8 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky, +39; 9 Luke Rowe (GB) Team Sky, +40; 10 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +40