Belgium's Tom Boonen wins the 2008 Tour of Qatar after finishing
as champion in 2006 and runner-up in 2007 [AFP]

Belgium's Tom Boonen, Quick Step rider, was crowned champion of the Tour of Qatar on the Gulf state's iconic cornice in Doha.

The former world champion sprinted home to win the sixth and final stage, a shortened 101km ride in blustery conditions from Al Wakra to Doha, for his second title in Qatar after a first success in 2006.

It was Boonen's third stage win of the race, after the Belgian also posted a second place in the fourth stage and third in the fifth stage while the Quick Step team won the opening team time-trial.

In the overall standings, Boonen finished 27 seconds ahead of Dutch team-mate Steven De Jongh with fellow Belgian Greg Van Avermaet a further 13 seconds adrift.

"I'm very happy," said Boonen, who finished runner-up in last year's Tour of Qatar by two minutes and nine seconds.

"This Tour of Qatar is really ideal during winter.

"The good weather (except for Friday), the small time difference, and stages posing no difficulties all help to stretch the legs," said the Belgian, who now has 16 stage wins since his debut in 2004.

Boonen will now carry on his training for the Spring classics in Europe by competing in the Tour of California.

"My first big goal will be the Milan-Sanremo," he said, adding he would compete in the Het Volk on March 1.

"I'm optimistic because when I leave Qatar with good feelings, the races that follow often go well."

Source: Agencies