Robert Hunter started his season off in the best way possible by outsprinting some of the best speedsters in the world to win the Doha International GP, a single day event preceding the Tour of Qatar on Saturday.

He beat Quickstep’s Tom Boonen into second with “Super” Mario Cipollini further adrift in fifth place in a sprint for the line in Doha, Qatar.

It was Hunter’s first race of the year and the former West Rand schoolboy was showered with congratulations from the Phonak top brass, who have been the subject of much discussion over the past few months in the aftermath of the Tyler Hamilton drug debacle.

On Saturday Hunter gave the team an injection of fire and proved that sponsoring a team is all about what they achieve on the road, and not about the hype surrounding individual personalities.

“Cipollini’s guys were leading him out for the win, but with 200 metres to go they seemed to let off the gas slightly and the pace became too slow for me. That’s when I jumped,” said an elated Hunter afterwards.

Hunter started in the Tour of Qatar on Sunday as the defending champion and his form is definitely good enough to give him more than a fighting chance to win the title again.

Results - 92 km

1 Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak Hearing Systems             2.12.17 (41.73 km/h)
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
3 Lars Michaelsen (Den) Team CSC
4 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel Pro CT
5 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
6 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
7 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Domina Vacanze
8 André Korff (Ger) T-Mobile Team
9 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
10 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Davitamon-Lotto