Tom Boonen Shows Why He's the Favorite in Qatar

James ThompsonCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2009

Pre-race favorite Tom Boonen (QuickStep) today won the third stage of the Tour of Qatar.  It marks the fifteenth stage that the Belgian has won in the history of the race.

Desert winds wreaked havoc on the riders at the start of the 137 kilometer stage, as Marcin Sapa (Lampre-NGC) and Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team) broke away at the 20 kilometer mark.  Their lead quickly grew to four minutes over the main peloton, which had already shattered into several pieces due to the high winds.

Their lead quickly evaporated, though, as QuickStep and Cervelo began the chase in earnest and caught the escape group with 16 kilometers remaining.

QuickStep and Cervelo, both containing several members in the main group, began fighting each other and the winds for position, but in the final sprint, Boonen was set up perfectly to take the win ahead of Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) and Jürgen Roelandts (Silence Lotto). 

The ten second time bonus that Boonen earned today helped him to leapfrog over yesterday's winner Roger Hammond (Cervelo) to take the overall lead in the race.