Tour of Oman 2011 stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson>>
Rabobank's Theo Bos showed the Tour of Oman peloton a clean pair of heels for the second time in three days as he beat Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) and HTC's Matt Goss in the bunch sprint on Thursday's third stage.
Goss's third place earned him a four-second time bonus - enough to retain the red leader's jersey from Bennati by just two seconds going into Friday's tough stage with its summit finish.
Thursday's 208km-long, flat, circular route starting and finishing in the town of Sur on Oman's eastern peninsular meant that the day's breakaway would both benefit from and struggle in the strong winds.
Right from the gun, a five-man break escaped from the bunch's admittedly limp clutches to embark on a tough, five-hour-long day in the saddle. Patrik Sinkewitz (Farnese Vini), Vitaliy Kondrut (Lampre), An Post's Kevin Claeys, Geox rider Marko Kump and BMC stalwart Marcus Burghardt did their sponsors proud up front, at one point getting their lead up to almost seven minutes.
But it was all over with 10km to go as the sprinters' teams, with their impeccable timing, came to the fore, with Bos again benefiting from his Rabobank team-mate Graeme Brown's lead-out, with Goss left admitting that the HTC effort hadn't gone as well as they would have liked.
"It was a really difficult sprint," acknowledged Bos after his win. "In fact, it's never easy as every team has the same goal, and the same pressure from their sports director, to be up at the front for the finish.
"My problem is, I'm not such a strong cyclist," the former track sprinting and keirin world champion modestly admitted. "I've got a good sprint, but I really need to improve the rest of it - my climbing, riding in crosswinds, everything. But I think I'm on the right team to help me to do that."
Next week, Bos will take his clear sprinting form to the Clasica de Almeria - which he won last year - and the Tour of Murcia, where he also won a stage last season. Does he expect Brown to be there to lead him out again? "I think so, yes - plus some fresh guys."
Meanwhile, despite doing enough to retain the red leader's jersey, Goss was left disappointed with his third place on the stage.
"The sprint didn't really work out how we would have wanted today," Goss said. "There was a bit of chaos in the last few hundred metres, and most of us got taken off the edge of the road, and that gave Bennati and Bos about 10-15 metres on us straight away. Unfortunately we couldn't shut it down, so I had to finish third on the stage."
Rather than a conventional lead-out, Goss explained to Cycling Weekly that he and team-mate Mark Cavendish were working together.
"Whichever one of us was in front of the other at the finish was going to help the other one out," Goss said. "He was on my wheel until the last 5-600 metres when there was a lot of craziness in the bunch and he got taken off my wheel, so I ended up behind the Sky guys.
"We didn't have a plan as to who was going for the win - we were just going to work with whatever happened."
Friday's fourth stage will be one for the climbers, Goss admitted, suggesting that it could be a day for the likes of Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez or Bos's Rabobank team-mate Robert Gesink.
"Then on HTC we've got Michael Albasini and Marco Pinotti, so maybe they'll try their hand," said Goss. "And then we'll have another chance in the sprint on the last stage on Sunday."
Tour of Oman 2011, stage three: Sur - Sur, 208km
1. Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank in 5.14.41
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard-Trek
3. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
5. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo
6. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini
7. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
8. Nico Eekhout (Bel) An Post-Sean Kelly
9. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad
10. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Quick Step all same time
47.Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo
50. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly
57. Russell Downing (GB) Sky all same time
105. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 31 secs
122. Mark McNally (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 1-14
DNS Jeremy Hunt (GB) Sky
Overall classification after stage three
1. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard-Trek at 2 secs
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky at 10 secs
4. Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen at 11 secs
5. Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Farnese Vini
6. Marko Kump (Slo) Geox all at same time
7. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 13 secs
8. Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-ISD at 14 secs
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
10. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha all at same time
24. Russell Downing (GB) Sky at 17 secs
74. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 10-42
91. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 10-48
109. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 11-08
110. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 11-19
120. Mark McNally (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 11-59
Brit Russell Downing has some mechanical trouble
Today's stage started and finished in Sur
Joost Posthuma chases, with Goss's HTC team right behind
Marcus Burghardt heads up the early escape group
Bos again: Theo takes his second stage win
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