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Nibali Climbs into GC Lead, Canada’s Houle 66th – Tour of Oman Stages 3, 4 Report, Results, Photos

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Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha wins Stage 3  ©  Cor Vos
February 19, 2016 (Oman) – When it comes to bunched sprints since the beginning of the cycling season, it’s hard to find better rider than Alexander Kristoff. After two hard days of hilly racing on the Tour of Oman, the Norwegian made the best of a perfectly flat course to conquer his fourth success this year, beating Moreno Hofland and Roy Jans to the line by Naseem Park. The Katusha rider who already captured 3 stage wins in Qatar can enjoy a 50% winning rate after his first 8 days of racing. Solidly positioned in the pack, his compatriot Edvald Boasson Hagen keeps the overall leader’s Red Jersey.

After two fairly demanding and hilly stages, the pack of the Tour of Oman had to deal with a far flatter stage on day three of the event. While injured Johan Van Summeren (ALM) was forced to quit the race, 139 riders took off under a bright sunshine from the splendid Sawadi Beach at 11:20 AM for a 176.5-km ride to Naseem Garden.

Peloton hits rain and thunderstorms on Stage 3  ©  Cor Vos

After only 1 km of racing, three men managed to break free from the pack: Dehaes (WGG), in the breakaway for the third consecutive day, Slik (ROP) and Kerby (DPC). The front trio was rapidly caught by two other men: Van Goethem (ROP) and Van Rooy (TSV). The gap rapidly grew and reached 4’15” at km 25. From then on, teams Dimension Data, of new overall leader Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Katusha, started chasing down the front men.

At the first intermediate sprint (km 81) claimed by Dehaes in front of Van Rooy and Slik, the gap had dropped to 2′ as thunder storms hit the race. With Van Rooy refusing to cooperate in the breakaway group, three of the five front men powered away at km 125: Slik, Van Goethem and Kerby. While the two dropped riders were caught at km 130, the pack remained 1’50” adrift.

At the second bonus sprint (km 149), won by Van Goethem ahead of Kerby and Slik, the leaders could still enjoy a 1’38” advantage. Under the pressure of the bunch, Brian van Goethem decided to try his luck on his own and took off with just under 20 kms to go. While his former companions were caught, the Dutchman survived until km 169 before his heroics came to an end.

The pack then remained bunched all the way to the final straight by Naseem Park. Well led out by his Katusha team mates, Alexander Kristoff flew to the line, claiming the win ahead of Moreno Hofland (TLJ) and Roy Jans (WGG). The Norwegian captured his first stage of this edition and his third in Oman after triumphing these last two years. With just eight race days in his legs, Kristoff has won four times since the beginning of the season. His three wins in Qatar and this fourth one here give him a 50% success rate.

Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha on the podium  ©  Cor Vos

Well protected by his Dimension Data team mates and comfortably positioned in the pack, Edvald Boasson Hagen who finished at a fine 10th spot today, keeps his overall leader’s Red Jersey. The Norwegian still has a 4” lead over Vincenzo Nibali (AST) and 6” over Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). He also remains in the lead of the points classification while Patrick Konrad (BOA) keeps the White Jersey for the best young rider. Thanks to the points he again conquered while in the breakaway, Kenny Dehaes captures the Most Aggressive rider’s jersey.

Stage 4 – Feb. 19 – Knowledge Oasis Muscat to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) – 180km
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 captures 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.

Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Team Astana wins Stage 4  ©  Cor Vos

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.

Team Astana during Tour of Oman stage 4  ©  Cor Vos

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.

Stage 4 podium  ©  Cor Vos

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 Brendan 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).

Stage 3
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 4:03:22
2. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
3. Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
4. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
5. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
6. Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin
7. Berden De Vries (Ned) Roompot – Oranje Peloton
8. Robin Stenuit (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
9. Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team
10. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data

121. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:04

Stage 4
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 4:25:48
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:09
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:00:12
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:18
5. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre – Merida 0:00:38
6. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data 0:00:43
7. George Bennett (Nzl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
8. Brendan Canty (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:00:45
9. Floris De Tier (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise 0:01:08
10. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data 0:01:10

66. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 0:09:56

GC after Stage 4
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 16:18:35
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:15
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:00:24
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:40
5. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre – Merida 0:00:54
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data 0:01:16
7. Brendan Canty (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:01:31
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:38
9. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data 0:01:41
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step 0:01:59

66. Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale 0:15:43

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