The overnight race leader Boasson Hagen double punctured with 8km remaining and despite the efforts of nearly all teammates lost time and plummeted to fifth overall after stage four, which Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and teammate Jacopo Guarnieri.
It was a bittersweet day for the Dimension Data team that remains, as from the start, in control of the race with Mark Cavendish moving from second to first on general classification having finished in the front group.
The mood around the team camp past the finish line in Madinat Al Shamal could have been tense but instead the men there, exhausted from the attempt to recover Boasson Hagen’s deficit, were complimentary of each other’s effort.
“We were lucky Cav did a really good TT yesterday (stage three) and was second on GC so ultimately we don’t lose the race,” Renshaw said. “But Eddie is the strongest rider in the race so it would have been nice to win with him.”
A resilient four-man break was caught after the peloton split into groups within the final 13km where the drama unfolded. BMC and LottoNL-Jumbo, who took control of the race and had begun to pull before Boasson Hagen’s mechanical, continued to drive making it difficult for the Norwegian to improve his condition.
Katusha took over with about 2km remaining and executed a fine lead-out for Kristoff with four of its riders in total placing in the top 10 of the stage.
“We saved our legs for the last kilometres for making a really good lead-out,” Kristoff said after his second stage win of the race. “We knew Cavendish was in the group so for sure we had to make it perfect to win.
“We got the speed really high for the last two kilometres so nobody was able to move up, or even almost not stay with us because we put it all on the side as there was a crosswind at the end. It was really perfect team work today.”
The 28-year-old sympathised with Boasson Hagen’s unlucky circumstance that came a day after the latter was heralded back into the winner’s circle with a convincing stage three time trial win.
“He would have won the race here overall, he had enough (of a) lead,” he said. “It’s a pity for him and I feel sorry for him but he should be confident how he rode yesterday and is really on the way back. For sure he’s at a really good level.”
Lead-out specialist Renshaw had dropped back earlier in an effort to help Boasson Hagen, who got back on his bike after a front wheel puncture and seconds later had to remedy the back.
“There’s probably always a better scenario if you look back in hindsight, maybe I should have stayed with Cav in the final and not stopped with Eddie,” he said. “But where you make these decisions is quite hard because everything is happening at 180 heartrate. In the end we didn’t win the stage but we kept the lead.”
Cavendish now has a slender two second advantage on Van Avermaet heading into the final stage in Doha on Friday that is less likely to be affected by wind.
“We were playing for GC with Edvald, this is our second option so it’s not a bad place to be is it if your second guy is still leading GC,” Dimension Data sports director Roger Hammond remarked. “It could have been a hell of a lot worse. There’s a lot of other teams that would have been in a worse
position if they lost their GC guy with 13km to go on a stage when crosswinds were all over the place.”