Hunter takes Doha GP

Robert Hunter has helped to put Phonak's troubles behind them by beating race favourite Tom Boonen b

Robert Hunter has helped to put Phonak's troubles behind them by beating race favourite Tom Boonen b
PICTURE BY TDWSPORT.COM The Losail International Motor Circuit played host to the second Doha International Grand Prix in Qatar on Saturday afternoon, with the finely-tuned Robert Hunter (Phonak) edging out the big engine of Quick Step's Tom Boonen, who couldn't quite manage to pass the South African in the bunch sprint. CSC's Lars Michaelsen took third, with Roger Hammond (Discovery Channel) fourth, and Mario Cipollini (Liquigas) back in fifth. The day's first attack, much to the delight of the gathered local dignitaries, came from Qatar's own Rdhwan Al-Moraqab of the Aljazeera Sport Channel team, managing to stay away from the slow-moving bunch, who were content to take things gently for what was the first race of the season for many, for just over four laps of the pan-flat 5.5km circuit. It was enough for Al-Moraqab to take the day's first intermediate sprint, with 1,250 euros in prize money for his efforts, before Davitamon-Lotto's Wim De Vocht and Laurens Ten Dam of Shimano-Memory Corp, the new sponsors of what was last season the Bankgiroloterij team, took over, with Al-Moraqab dropping back to the peloton. De Vocht and Ten Dam worked well together, building up a lead of almost three minutes by halfway through the 16-lap race, but, with a group of three riders playing piggy-in-the-middle, just three seconds behind the leading duo, it wasn't long before the front group swelled to five. Bouygues Telecom's Anthony Ravard, Benoit Joachim (Discovery Channel), and the evergreen Andrea Tafi of Saunier Duval joined Ten Dam and Devocht, but, choosing to battle it out for the day's last intermediate sprint with five laps to go, won by Ravard, rather than work togther, probably cost them. The peloton swept the five riders up with a lap to go, and the stage was set for the battle of the big sprinters. "I'm very happy to win the team's first race of the season," said Hunter. "It really takes the stress off the team after the problems we've had. I'd really like to say thank you to [team owner] Andy Rihs, who asked us to stick by him through all the troubles, which we have. It really is a new start for the team." Hunter spent the winter in the sunnier climes of South Africa, "just like last year, and just like every year", and will now go into Monday's Tour of Qatar with the confidence of a victory behind him, hoping to repeat his overall win and two stage wins of last year in the five-day race. "Is Qatar becoming my stomping ground? Oh, we've still got all this week to go, but let's say I am very happy with how it's gone so far in Qatar this year, yes!" Hunter told procycling. "My team's got a lot of confidence in me, and I'm really happy for them to have won." Results 1 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak 93.5km in 2.12.17 2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 3 Lars Michaelsen (Den) CSC 4 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel 5 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Liquigas 6 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 7 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Domina Vacanze 8 Andre Korff (Ger) T-Mobile 9 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 10 Aart Vierhouten (Hol) Davitamon-Lotto
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