• Stage 5 sprint finish between Mark Cavendish and Alexander Kristoff (QCF/Kåre Dehlie Thorstad) (Qatari Cycling Federation)Source: Qatari Cycling Federation
The final stage of the Tour of Qatar came down to a photo finish with what looked like only a few PSI in it.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
13 Feb 2016 - 8:42 AM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2016 - 9:52 AM

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was not certain if he won the final stage of the Tour of Qatar on Friday with neither he nor race champion Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) celebrating as they crossed the line.

Adjudicators deliberated over a replay before awarding Kristoff the victory in what was also a confirmation of form for the Norwegian at the event considered a spring classics testing ground.

Kristoff led the sprint staring down at his stem at the end of the 114.5km fifth stage but Cavendish had eyes fixed on the finish line dead ahead, making inroads and itching closer until the pair were virtually shoulder to shoulder.

“I did not celebrate because I thought maybe he had it,” Kristoff said.

“He was faster coming to the line but I just held him off because I have longer arms I think so I can throw the bike a bit longer. 

“I tried to get as fast as possible to the finish line so I was even sitting down a little bit because we had so high cadence. I just tried to keep him behind me and we were neck to neck, so it’s hard to think, you just try to be as fast as possible,” he said. 

Cavendish held onto the leader’s jersey he reclaimed from Dimension Data teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen on Thursday after the latter double punctured and lost time at the business end of stage four. The newly minted WorldTour outfit led the tour with the pair from beginning to end.

Kristoff’s stage victory saw him catapult from fourth to second overall with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) rounding out the final podium in Doha.

“We’re happy to have the gold jersey,” Cavendish said.

“Of course, the gold jersey should really be on the shoulders of Edvald if he didn’t have the luck yesterday but we’re happy that Dimension Data has got it. It was a good week of racing by the team, we got ourselves in the front position and controlled the race," he said. 

The 28-year-old Kristoff won three of the five stages available and has taken confidence from his season opener with Katusha ahead of the spring classics and a slated Tour of Flanders title defence.

“It was great preparation for me. I had two very close sprints with Mark and yesterday I won a good one with the team working very well together. We are confident for going into the classics,” he said.

The fifth stage from Sealine Beach Resort to Doha Corniche was relatively straight forward with a headwind in the run to the finishing circuit the peloton lapped 10 times influencing affairs.

Steven Tronet (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Jesse Sergent (AG2R La Mondiale) escaped early and built a maximum lead just under four minutes.

The trio led the race until the final laps of a 5.6km circuit where the peloton reeled them in with Dimension Data, Katusha and Bora-Argon, working for Sam Bennett, controlling the pace. 

Cavendish cautiously optimistic about road form
Rio Olympics track hopeful Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) is not totally convinced he’s made a swift and successful transition from the velodrome to road despite winning the Tour of Qatar on Friday.