A blustery half-gale blew away almost all hope Mark Cavendish had of claiming a first overall stage-race win here yesterday as the peloton shattered and the reigning World Champion lost nearly a minute on winner Tom Boonen.
While Boonen racked up the 20th stage win of his career and strengthened his lead in the Tour of Qatar, Cavendish finished 31st and slid from third to 11th overall. Just two stages, both unremittingly flat, remain and Boonen and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step squad are in pole position to win overall.
Yesterday strong crosswinds combined with poorly surfaced, highly exposed roads turned the race into a near lottery. One team, Rabobank, suffering eight punctures in less than a quarter of an hour.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport is today expected to publish its verdict on an appeal by cycling's governing body, the UCI, to have the 1997 Tour de France winner, Jan Ullrich, investigated following evidence revealed by a Spanish anti-doping probe in 2006.