Tour of Qatar 1: Tom Boonen takes lead

Belgian shows good early season form

Belgian Tom Boonen, riding for the Quick Step team, won the first stage of the Tour of Qatar on Monday, heading home a sprint finish ahead of Australian duo Heinrich Haussler and Mark Renshaw.

Boonen, a three-time winner of the Tour - now with 18 stage victories under his belt, takes the race leader's golden jersey from Dutch rider Lars Boom, who won Sunday's opening prologue but who suffered during the first stage with stomach problems.

"This victory is my reward for all the hard work I've put in to returning to top form since my injury last year," said Boonen.

"It was probably the hardest moment in my career, but now I'm happy. From the very first kilometres the heat was on. My cyclocomputer gave readings as high as 75 kilometres an hour in the first phase of competition!

"The pack broke up almost immediately and only a few of us made it into the lead break. On the lead group there was great collaboration and we managed to repel a bridging of the gap by riders who were left in the second group. My success was just the best part of a very special day."

Riders face a 135.5km second stage on Tuesday.

© AFP 2011

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