Tom Boonen, Quickstep won this third Tour of Qatar this year in an event that was marred by the death of 22 year old Belgium rider Frederiek Nolf. Nolf was found dead by his roommate on the morning of the 5th stage.
The 2009 Tour of Qatar started with a 6km team time trial won by Garmin SlipStream, putting triple gold medal Olympian Bradley Wiggins in the overall winners gold jersey. Garmin reversed last year’s race results, this year they beat Quickstep to the top of the podium.
Boonen first put on the gold jersey after winning the sprint on a wind blown stage 3. His win came on the same day a Belgium court ruled that Boonen should face no further punishment for testing positive for cocaine in an out of competition test last year.
Bike Pure, a newly established organization set up to promote drug free cycling said about the development, “The use of cocaine in out of competition testing doesn't contravene 'doping in sport' laws. The fact that any pro rider, especially Boonen, would be willing to take Class A drugs socially doesn't send out a great anti-doping message to cycling fans worldwide".
Stage 4 gave Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia his first win of the season. Perhaps the disappointment of a puncture in the last 1500m of the previous days race just before the sprint was enough to give Cavendish that extra push required to beat Tom Boonen. This is Cavendish’s first win in Qatar and came on a day when winds pelted the peloton meaning teamwork played a greater role than usual. Team Columbia-Highroad were never far from the front.
The 5th stage was neutralized as the riders paid their respects to Frederiek Nolf’s family and team.
The final stage of the Tour was a circuit around the Doha Corniche where Mark Cavendish had a convincing two bike length win. Boonen went in to the stage with a ten second wind and chose not to contest this final sprint. Boonen won overall, with Cervelo Test Team holding places 2nd to 6th and overall team winners.
Both Cavendish and Boonen are competing in this week’s Tour of California where they will no doubt face off again in many great sprint finishes.
For more about Bike Pure, visit their website www.bikepure.org