Australian sprinter Mark Renshaw has abandoned his Tour of Qatar title defence and will focus on a stage victory for the remainder of the desert race.
The GC is finished. I think I’m strong enough so we can just focus on a stage now.
Renshaw missed the main split in the fourth stage that saw Tom Boonen take line honours to increase his overall lead to 31 seconds on Garmin-Barracuda’s Tyler Farrar.
The 29-year-old Renshaw finished the 147.5km road race from Al Thakhira to Madinat Al Shamal 54sec behind the race winner in 19th place and is now 1:32 down in the overall standings just behind compatriot Baden Cooke (GreenEDGE).
Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) and Farrar were two of about 26 riders that broke away within the final 30km of the stage with Renshaw amongst those in the second group that also included Mark Cavendish (Sky) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC).
The break whittled down over a two-lap finishing circuit with eventually six racing for line honours. Tom Veelers (Project 1T4i) was second and quadruple time-trial world champion Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) third.
“We didn’t have anyone in the front group so pretty disappointing,” Renshaw said.
“I just missed it when it split and then we had four guys flat all at the same time at the crucial moment.
“The GC is finished. I think I’m strong enough so we can just focus on a stage now.”
Renshaw will this season need to work quickly on building a lead-out train to support him at new team Rabobank whom he has signed with as a marquee sprinter after building a reputation as the world’s best lead-out man the past few years.
“We didn’t really have a chance today or yesterday with the wind so we’re not working on the train,” he said.
“It’s just trying to focus on getting one in the front and we didn’t achieve that.
“The last day is more of a criterium so that’s a good chance to practice with the train. We need to do something in the next two days.”
The Tour of Qatar continues with the penultimate 160km fifth stage from Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche.
Sophie Smith is in Qatar as a guest of Amaury Sport Organisation