Australian Heinrich Haussler won the third stage of the Tour of Qatar Wednesday to take the race leader's jersey from Belgium's former three-time winner Tom Boonen.
Haussler's second consecutive win on the race came after Boonen, the winner of stage one, suffered a puncture in the final 40km of the 150.5km race from Al Wakra to Mesaieed in the south of Doha.
Having joined a breakaway group of around 20 riders, Haussler put his "great" legs to optimal use in a bunch sprint where he beat HTC-Highroad's Mark Renshaw, who was second, and Italian Daniele Bennati, third.
"My legs are feeling great. I really feel in top form this week even though I'm nowhere near peak fitness," said Haussler, who will be aiming to peak for the Milan-SanRemo one-day classic next month and the Tour of Flanders in April.
Haussler now has a four-second lead on fellow Australian Renshaw, and 15sec on Bennati, in the race's general classification ahead of Thursday's fourth stage over 153.5km from West Bay Lagoon to Al Kharaitiyat.
In keeping with tradition, the tough wind conditions proved to be a decisive factor with the peloton being split into several groups.
Haussler, however, also capitalised on Boonen's misfortune after the Belgian flatted 40km from the finish line and failed to rejoin the lead group.
"By the time I got a wheel change I was 15 to 20 seconds behind them and with the wind, and the fact there was a lot of strong riders in the group, it was impossible to get back on," said Boonen.
"What made it worse was the fact that when I punctured, the group accelerated."
Boonen finally arrived in 46th place to slip nearly three minutes down the overall standings.
© AFP 2011
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