Muscat: The second stage of the Tour of Oman once again proved how beautiful and demanding the roads and hills of the Middle-East nation can be. After the battle between the sprinters on Tuesday, it was time for the GC contenders to show how good their legs were.
Part of the leading group on the final climb of the day, Ben Hermans awaited the ultimate moments to power to his first ever stage success in Oman beating Rui Costa and Jakob Fuglsang to the line.
The Belgian captured the overall lead and the Red Jersey going with it.
After a first flat stage on the Tour of Oman, Day 2 was far more demanding for the 142 remaining riders of the race. In slightly cloudy conditions, making the temperature drop by few degrees, the pack took off from the Nakhal Castle for a 142km race all the way to the west of Muscat, via several extremely steep climbs.
It was a day for GC contenders.
After a very fast start (50.8kms covered during the first hour) and despite many breakaway attempts, it wasn’t until 45km that two men managed to take off: Christian (ABS) and Van Hecke (SVB), winner of the Most Aggressive Riders’ jersey back in 2014.
Both escapees saw their advantage grow rapidly: from 5’50 at km 50 to 7’55’’ at the first intermediate sprint claimed by Van Hecke ahead of Christian and Red Jersey Kristoff (KAT), leading the pack.
But under the control of teams AG2R-La Mondiale, UAE Abu Dhabi and Astana, the gap started dropping dramatically.
At the top of the second climb of the day (96.5km), Christian led the way ahead of Van Hecke while the pack remained 4’10’’ adrift.
On the steep climb up Al Hamriyah (123km), Christian was the only man left in the lead. He managed to reach the top with a 10’’ advantage before being eventually caught.
On the final part of the course, on hilly and sinuous roads, Daniel Eaton (UHC) powered away taking with him Lasse-Norman Hansen (ABS).
Both men enjoyed a 30’’ lead with 10kms to go. At the second bonus sprint claimed by Eaton ahead of Hansen, the pack moved closer, only 20’’ adrift. The front riders were finally caught before the final climb up Al Jissah.
Around 40 riders remained in the lead while the likes of race leader Alexander Kristoff, Tom Boonen and Bob Jungels (both QST) dropped.
Olympic silver medallist in Rio, Jakob Fuglsang (AST), made it first to the top ahead of De la Cruz (QST) and Rui Costa (UAD), as the favourites’ group remained bunched.
Taking off in the last 500m, Kudus (DDD) thought his effort would pay off but he was eventually caught in the last few metres.
Perfectly timing his effort, Ben Hermans (BMC) indeed captured the win beating Rui Costa (UAE) and Jakob Fuglsang (AST) to the line. The Belgian, already a winner of the Fleche Brabançonne as well as stages on the Arctic Race of Norway and the Tour de Yorkshire claims his first success in Oman.
Hermans, thanks to his performance, takes command of the general classification, enjoying a 4’’ lead over Rui Costa and 6’’ over Fuglsang while pre-race favourites Fabio Aru (AST), 6th, and Romain Bardet (ALM), 10th, are 17’’ adrift.
Claiming precious points at both intermediate sprints, Kristoff keeps control of the Green Jersey (points classification).
Fourth of the stage, Kudus can be satisfied with the White Jersey for the best young rider.
One of the men of the day, Mark Christian captures the Most Aggressive riders’ jersey.
Jebel Sifah to host
Testing the limits of the world’s most skilled cyclists, Jebel Sifah will host the beginning of the Tour of Oman’s upcoming Stage 4 on Friday. The 118 km stage, which will start at 11am, will challenge the 143 competitors from 39 countries as they race through wadis and mountains to the finish line at the Ministry of Tourism.
A bustling residential community and one of Oman’s most sought-after tourist destinations, Jebel Sifah is quickly becoming renown for hosting some of the most prestigious and exhilarating sports events in the region.
The destination is opening its doors to Muscat residents to join the spectators, the world over, in cheering for the competitors starting 7am. The fully integrated town was recently the main headquarters and host of the Spartan Race, the world’s fastest growing lifestyle sport.