Tom Boonen continues his winning run in Qatar, once again finishing in front of the pack at the end
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM For the second day in a row, Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) has beaten Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) in a bunch sprint in Qatar. The Belgian was too fast for the Italian after 140 km of racing, with the stage finishing in Khalifa Stadium. Third place went to Bernhard Eisel (T-Mobile), and Boonen extended his lead on the general classification to 9 seconds over Petacchi. The stage started without Tom Steels (Predictor-Lotto), who was brought down by Graeme Brown (Rabobank) in a finish line crash yesterday and broke his collarbone. That left 134 riders, who set off from Dohat Salwa with the wind behind them for the first 60 km. They covered that distance in a little over an hour. At the first bonus sprint (km 35), Quick.Step’s “alternate” sprinter Gert Steegmans took the honours ahead of Maarten Tjallingii (Skil-Shimano) and Sebastien Rosseler (Quick.Step). The three gained a small gap over the field and were joined by another eight, but were caught a few kilometres later. The second sprint (km 59) saw Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) win in front of JP Nazon (Ag2R) and Marcel Sieberg (Milram). Once the peloton turned back to Doha, it faced a stiff headwind and the pace dropped by nearly 25 km/h. Irishman Paul Healion (Sean Kelly team) managed to get away after 82 km, and gained a maximum lead over 7’00 by km 99. He was chased by Eric Baumann (T-Mobile) and Romain Feillu (Agritubel), who caught him at km 113. The newly formed trio was just 2’15 ahead of the bunch at that stage, and when the sprinters’ teams increased their pace, it was all over with less than 10 km to go. The stage result was almost a carbon copy of yesterday’s, with Boonen again proving to be too strong for Petacchi. But there were no dangerous crashes in the finale, as Austrian Bernhard Eisel (T-Mobile) finished a solid third. Tomorrow’s fourth stage is between the Camel Race Track and Doha Golf Club, over 139.5 km. Results 1 Tom Boonen (Bel, Quick-Step) 3:25:06 2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita, Milram) 3 Bernhard Eisel (Aut, T-Mobile) 4 Aurlien Clerc (Swi, Bouygues Telecom) 5 Stefano Zanini (Ita, Predictor-Lotto) 6 Graeme Brown (Aus, Rabobank) 7 Ren Haselbacher (Aut, Astana) 8 Gregory Henderson (NZl, T-Mobile) 9 Linas Balciunas (Ltu, Agritubel) 10 Robert Frster (Ger, Gerolsteiner) General classification after stage 3 1 Tom Boonen (Bel, Quick-Step) 6:33:09 2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita, Milram) 0:00:09 3 Steven De Jongh (Ned, Quick-Step) 0:00:13 4 Gert Steegmans (Bel, Quick-Step) 0:00:21 5 Francesco Chicchi (Ita, Liquigas) 0:00:24 6 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra, Ag2R Prvoyance) 0:00:25 7 Marco Velo (Ita, Milram) 8 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel, Quick-Step) 9 Murilo Fischer (Bra, Liquigas) 0:00:25) 10 Bernhard Eisel (Aut, T-Mobile) Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.