Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) survived the high pace and multiple climbs of the fourth stage of the Tour of Oman to take the sprint victory. He finished just ahead of Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).
The stage was marked by various breaks, and a group of the top favourites which formed near the end looked to make the win out amongst themselves. But parts of the splintered peloton were able to catch them on the tricky finale, leaving the way open for the sprinters.
Ben Hermans (BMC Racing) easily defended his overall lead by finishing in the first group, extending his lead to five seconds over Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi).
Five ranked climbs spiked the route today, with three closing laps of a circuit course including the Bousher al Amerate ascent each time. The short, 118km, stage got off to a fast start, with a group of nine riders getting away early.
Tanel Kangert (Astana), Axel Domont (AG2R), Stefan Küng (BMC), Anass Ait El Abdia (UAE Abu Dhabi), Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport), Mike Teunissen (Sunweb), Fabien Douby (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), and Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare) sped through the first intermediate sprint and the first two early climbs. Jungels took both the sprint and the first climb, with Denifl claiming the second one.
A flat 30km section then beckoned, and the group went into it with a 1:45 lead. They were not working well together, and the gap settled in at about 1:30. That gap held on the first climb of the final mountain, with Denifl once again first at the top, while the gap grew to nearly two minutes on the descent.
That was the high point, however, as the field turned on the speed. Jungles, Teunissen and Eason were dropped on the second ascent and the field moved up on the remaining six riders. With 20km to go, a reduced peloton of about 70 riders was within a minute of the lead group.
Küng was the first to feel the pressure and attack out of the break group on the final climb. AG2R La Mondiale turned up the heat and led the capture of the remaining escapees, with the peloton shedding riders constantly under the blistering pace.
New attacks followed immediately on the climb, with AG2R’s Romain Bardet among them. A 15-man group topped the climb for the final time, and race leader Hermans took the full complement of points as they did. The high-powered group included Bardet, Fabio Aru, Jakob Fuglsang, Mathias Frank and Costa.
The speed on the final climb was enough to totally shred the remaining field, leaving the outcome of the stage to those in front. On the descent, attack followed attack amongst the favourites. Despite the power up front, a large group was able to catch the leaders on the run to the line, bringing about a bunch sprint, with Kristoff once again proving to have the best legs and taking his second win of the race.