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MESAIEED, Qatar (AFP) — Dutch rider Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step) retained the leader’s gold jersey at the Tour of Qatar after Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won Wednesday’s fourth stage.
Kristoff, who also won stage 2, triumphed after a bunch sprint at the end of the 165-kilometer stage between Al Thakira and Mesaieed, finishing ahead of Slovak Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and German Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin).
The peloton again faced windy conditions that forced organizers to start the stage ahead of schedule and led to several crashes in the final 30 kilometers of racing.
“It was a lot of headwind during the whole day, so the pace was slow, and the race became easy until the final kilometers,” Kristoff said. “In the final, everybody was fresh, so the sprint was very chaotic! It was very important to get a good position.
“Maybe I started a bit early, but I felt I had to go otherwise I would have come in from behind. In the end, Sagan was fast. I saw him on my left, and I wasn’t too sure I had won. It was a tight one.”
The early breakaway went after 10 kilometers of racing, and it included Jaco Venter (MTN-Qhubeka), Dimitry Gruzdev (Astana), and Jarl Salomein (Topsport-Vlaanderen). The trio gained an advantage of 3:45, but their exploit ended with 18 kilometers to go after they fought headwinds all day long.
In the overall standings, Terpstra now enjoys a six-second advantage on Poland’s Maciej Bodnar (Tnkoff), with Briton Ian Stannard (Sky) 12 seconds adrift.
“It’s my best start of a season,” Kristoff said. “I didn’t expect to be that good. I feel good, I feel confident. I have never felt so strong in Qatar before. It’s a great feeling.”
With his second win, Kristoff claimed the silver points competition leader’s jersey. Luke Rowe (Team Sky) keeps the white jersey as best young rider.
Thursday’s fifth stage will see the riders tackle 153km from Al Zubarah Fort to Madinat Al Shamal. The race ends Friday.