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World champion Tom Boonen wasted no time in making his first addition to his victory palmares this season when he took a clear victory in the Doha International in Qatar this afternoon. The Quick Step rider outsprinted Robert Hunter and Erik Zabel after being set up by his 'train' in the one-day precursor to the Tour of Qatar.
"Today everybody has seen a great team," said Boonen afterwards. "Our team is really strong and united. This means that we have worked well during the winter and the training camp in Calpe."
The world champion had tried an attack at the race's mid-point, when, exploiting the strong side wind, the Quick Step team broke the peloton into two parts. That break was hauled back, and Boonen saved himself for the last kilometre where Matteo Tosatto and Steven de Jongh set him up for the victory.
"It was a beautiful team victory," Boonen explained. "When you win on the first occasion, everything is all right and morale grows, even if we are conscious that it is only the beginning of the season and the important tests they are still to come."
The ease of Boonen's victory may have been helped by Stuart O'Grady breaking his chain while sprinting for the line. "The whole team was up front during the final lap and Stuart was in a perfect position, right on Tom Boonen's wheel, when the sprint started. So it could have been a really good result, but then his chain broke. On the other hand, Stuart was lucky not to crash, and today's effort from the team makes me very optimistic for the Tour of Qatar," said DS Alain Gallopin.
"We went directly from a hard training camp, but we have noticed that some of the riders are already in great shape. We obviously need a bit of luck to repeat last year's huge success in the Tour of Qatar, but I wouldn't be surprised if we got one or two big results down here again this year," Gallopin added.
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 108km in 2.26.24 (44.26kph)
2 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
4 Leon van Bon (Hol) Davitamon-Lotto
5 Kenny van Hummel (Hol) Skil-Shimano
6 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
7 Robert Forster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
8 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
9 Guido Trenti (USA) Quick Step
10 Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Panaria
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