Boonen claims gold jersey
Belgian Tom Boonen leads the Tour of Qatar after stage two.
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2007 12:21 GMT

Stage winner Tom Boonen, left, and Sheikh Khalid bin Ali al-Thani, Qatar Cycling Federation president [AFP]

Former world champion cyclist Tom Boonen took the leader's gold jersey after winning the second stage of the Tour of Qatar, beating Italian Alessandro Petacchi and Frenchman Jean-Patrick Nazon in a sprint finish of the 135km leg from Al Wakra to Doha on Monday.
Boonen, from the Quick Step team, took the gold jersey off his teammate Steven de Jongh from the Netherlands, who held the leader's shirt after Quick Step's team time trial victory in Sunday's opening stage along the Doha corniche.

"Winning is good. Beating Petacchi is even more important, particularly psychologically," said Boonen, the defending Tour of Qatar champion.

The Belgian admitted he had been lucky to win after Pettachi's team Milram started their leader's sprint too early.

"I decided not to launch the sprint too early," Boonen said.

"It was a change in tactics from last year when I sometimes found myself alone at the front and in the wind.

"Today I went at the right moment."

Five riders broke from the peloton and held a four minute advantage 40km from the finish, but Belgians Bert Roesems and Kenny Dehaes, Dutchman Piet Rooijakkers, Kazakh Dimitri Muravyev, and Christophe Riblon of France could not hold off the chasing group led by the Quick Step pair of Kevin Van Impe and Sebastien Rosseler.

Injury to man of steel

Tom Steels, right, collides with Graeme Brown
during the second stage sprint finish [AFP]

The race came down to an exciting sprint finish between Quick Step on one side of the road and Milram on the other, with Boonen putting in a strong spurt in the last 50m to win the stage by the smallest of margins.

Unfortunately for Boonen's compatriot Tom Steels, the second stage was the end of the road in Qatar after a bad crash 30m from the finish resulted in a fractured left collarbone.

Steels, from the Predictor-Lotto team, was impeded by Australia's Graeme Brown as the riders jostled for sprinting position, with the Belgian now returning home for an operation.

"I don't blame Graeme, these things happen in sprints," Steels said after leaving hospital with six stitches.

Tuesday's third stage is over 140km around Doha with Boonen leading De Jongh, from Gert Steegmans in third and Petacchi in fourth.

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