Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team did nothing short of escort Mark Cavendish to sprint position in the final kilometers of Tour of Qatar Stage 3, but it still took some maneuvering by the Manx Missile to get his second sprint victory of 2013.
Other teams did everything they could to prevent the OPQS leadout from getting perfect position in the final kilometers. Furthermore, a mechanical with one of the OPQS leadout riders meant Niki Terpstra was left to take Cavendish to the front for the bunch sprint battle. Cavendish exploded up the right side of the final 350 meters, and his final kick in the long sprint sealed the win.
Barry Markus (Vacansoleil) was 2nd, and Aidis Kruopis (Orica GreenEDGE) was 3rd.
OPQS has won four races, in three disciplines, in 2013.
"Guillaume Van Keirsbulck was my last man today, but about 2 or 3 kilometers to go he snapped a spoke so we lost him," Cavendish said. "We were a man short, so we had to put Niki to work with 1200 meters to go. That's too much work for any one guy, but Niki put me in very good position with 1 kilometer to go and I was able to use other trains to go for the win."
"I really had to kick at 350 meters, I was so far back," Cavendish said about the sprint. "I was about 12 riders back so I knew I had to go then, I knew I could get there faster than the other guys when I felt good from that distance. I was surprised I was able to get it, there was a late surge from Kruopis so I had to kick again. I felt really strong, so I have to thank my team. They really kept me protected, kept me out of trouble the whole time and gave me energy for the sprint. "
"If there's a headwind, I don't feel it at all," Cavendish continued about his team support. "I ride behind them, and they can ride strong and fast. It's so important to be at the front around the corners here, because you don't know where the wind is coming from every time. We have guys who are committed to putting me in the best position more than once. If they can do that each race, I'm in good position."
As far as GC contention goes, Cavendish said it's more important to focus on each Stage. He is currently 4th, 8" back.
"It is absolutely important that we take it day by day," Cavendish said. "I think we've come here with multiple options, but I think it's reasonable to be going for the bunch sprints. Especially with the wind dying down a bit at the end of the week. If we had strong guys here like Tom Boonen, Niki, or the other Belgians, we could come here with the GC more in mind. They can do well in the smaller groups. With me as a sprinter, I'm not going to likely be in those small groups at the end. I'm looking for the time bonuses. I think it's best to come here, focus on the stage wins, and hope the GC can come from that."