Muscat: The queen stage of the 2016 Tour of Oman was at the height of expectations and offered a tremendous battle between the favourites of the event all the way to the finish line on Jabal Al Akhdhar.
Already a winner back in 2012 at Green Mountain, Vincenzo Nibali made the best of the decisive climb, beating Romain Bardet and Jakob Fuglsang.
While former leader Edvald Boasson Hagen lost over a minute on the day, the Italian winner of all three Grand Tours captured the overall leader’s red jersey.
With two stages to go Nibali has an interesting 15’’ lead over Bardet and is on pole position to win his first ever Tour of Oman.
At the start of Stage 4 of the Tour of Oman, there were some concerned faces. Indeed the day would promise to be a hard one with the final climb up Jabal Al Akhdhar, also known as Green Mountain, especially because this year, the famous climb would be longer with an extra 1.8kms.
Thankfully for the 139 riders, and unlike yesterday, there would be no thunder storms as they took off under a bright sun from Knowledge Oasis Muscat. The pack started its 180-km effort at 11:00, heading south.
After just a kilometre two men took off: most agressive rider, Kenny Dehaes and his team mate Björn Thurau (WGG).
After having an 8’’ lead, they were caught six kilometres later. It was then the turn of Davide Cimolai (LAM) and Daniel Oss (BMC) to try their luck. The two Italians were rapidly caught by 8 other riders : Pfingsten (BOA), Keisse (EQS), Antonini, Stenuit (WGG), De Vries (ROP), Steels (TSV), White (UHC) and Reihs (SSG). The ten men saw the gap rapidly grow up to 3’20’’ at km 40.
At the first intermediate sprint (km 82) claimed by Steels ahead of Keisse and Cimolai the gap grew to 4’15’’ and reached a maximum 4’25’’ at km 95. Chased down by teams Astana, Dimension Data and AG2R La Mondiale, the breakaway riders could still count on a 2’55’’ with 20 kms to go.
At the second bonus sprint (km 163), won by Antonini ahead of Stenuit and Steels, the gap had dropped to 2’10’’. While Stenuit and Steels were the first to be dropped, the leading group reached the bottom of the final climb with a 40’’ advantage.
Eventually Oss was the last to survive. All his former companions were indeed caught one after the other. The Italian was finally gobbled up by the pack at km 176. With four kilometres to go two men, Brambilla (EQS) and Weening (ROP) powered away from a group of around twenty men including all the GC favorites.
Their lead grew to 10’’ over a bunch led by four Astana riders, but they were soon to be caught. It was then Jakob Fuglsang’s (AST) turn to give it a go taking with him Romain Bardet (ALM). Meanwhile red jersey Edvald Boasson Hagen (DDD) started struggling.
Just under ten riders including Rui Costa (LAM), Nibali, Fuglsang (AST), Bardet, Pozzovivo (ALM), Sepulveda (FVC), Dumoulin (TGA), Kudus (DDD) and Canty (DPC) gathered together, while the overall leader was 23’’ adrift with 2 kilometres to go. Again Bardet attacked alongside former Tour, Giro and Vuelta winner Vincenzo Nibali. Both men remained together with a slim advantage over their rivals. The stage ended up with a sprint between both men.
While Bardet was the first to take off with just over 100m to go, the Italian hung on to his wheel and eventually overtook him to capture victory. He crossed the line with a 9’’ lead over the Frenchman and 12’’ over Fuglsang, capturing his second win at Green Mountain after a first success back in 2012 when he finished second of the GC. Tenth of the day, Boasson Hagen crossed the line with a 1’10’’ deficit, losing his leadership.
With two stages to go, Nibali takes command of the general classification and has a 15’’ lead over Bardet and 24’’ over Fuglsang. The Astana rider also leads the points classification while promising Brebdan Canty (DPC), 8th of the stage, captures the white jersey for the best young rider. The Most Aggressive rider’s jersey remains on the shoulders of Kenny Dehaes (WGG)