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It was bound to happen some time, and just when it appeared that it might not happen for quite a time, Tom Boonen was finally beaten at the Tour of Qatar, with Austrian Bernhard Eisel the first rider to take the world champion's scalp this season. Erik Zabel also finished ahead of Boonen, the German claiming his third second place already of the season as Boonen's winning run ended at four - the Doha International and the first three stages here.
Eisel was delighted with his win, admitting he was surprised to get the better of the in-form world champion. "It's an incredible feeling. This morning I was saying to Fabian Cancellara that Boonen is unbeatable at the moment. But Fabian persuaded me this was not the case, saying that I could beat him. He was right," Eisel told L'Equipe.
"Two kilometres from the line I was caught in about 50th place. I managed to get back up to the front and when the sprint started I noticed that Boonen was having a problem with his gears. He had to sprint in the 12 rather than the 11. That might explain my victory, but that is racing," added the 25-year-old Austrian.
Boonen, who won the last two races of last season as well as the first four of this, acknowledged that Eisel "had sprinted well. You can't win all the time," he said. There was some consolation for the Belgian as he retained the overall lead going into tomorrow's final stage.
Stage 4, Al Zubarah-Qatar Olympic Committee
1 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Franaise des Jeux 145.5km in 3.23.46 (42.84kph)
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
4 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak
5 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) CSC
6 Kenny van Hummel (Hol) Skil-Shimano
7 Sergio Marinangeli (Ita) Naturino
8 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
9 Christophe Detilloux (Bel) Franaise des Jeux
10 Hans Dekkers (Hol) Agritubel
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 13.25.42
2 Zabel 0.07
3 Aurlien Clerc (Swi) Phonak 0.20
4 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak 0.30
5 Matti Breschel (Den) CSC 0.31
6 Steven de Jongh (Hol) Quick Step
7 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Phonak 0.33
8 Guidi 0.34
9 Nick Ingels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
10 Aart Vierhouten (Hol) Skil-Shimano
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