Posted: Sunday February 5, 2012 12:17 PM

Boonen wins opening stage of Tour of Qatar

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) - Tom Boonen of Belgium won the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar on Sunday, finishing four seconds ahead of Adam Blythe of Britain.

The former world road racing champion, riding for the Omega Pharma Quick-Step team, completed the 88.5-mile first stage in 3 hours, 11 minutes, 22 seconds.

BMC Racing Team's Blythe was followed by Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale, six seconds back in third. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Barracuda was fourth.

British rider Mark Cavendish, who was sick when he arrived in Doha and didn't train on Saturday, finished 51st and 10 seconds behind Boonen. Cavendish, riding for Sky Procycling, is the world road race champion.

Boonen is looking for his fourth title at the Tour of Qatar after wins in 2006, 2008 and 2009 in the Gulf nation. Sunday's win was his 19th stage victory at the Tour of Qatar.

"It was a very good stage for me. We were working very hard and it showed,'' Boonen said. "I only got here on Friday and was very tired. But I finished the day with a victory so that is pleasing.''

The race came down to the last 30 yards, when seven riders, including Boonen, were in position to go for the win.

"It was unbelievable,'' Boonen said. "Near the finish you always form a group and everybody is always tired. But today that was not the case. Nobody seemed tired. It was a strong finish,''

Blythe said he was just happy to finish second.

"I wasn't so sure that I'd do so well. I was hoping for a top five so I am happy,'' he said. "I am sure we will be looking to finish the job in the next few days. I got the opportunity so I took it. We will see what happens. Anything can happen from now on.''

On Monday, the cyclists will race in a seven-mile time trial around Qatar's iconic Losail International Circuit, the venue of an annual MotoGP race.

 
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