Rabobank’s Robert Gesink won the overall classification of the Tour of Oman on Sunday, with HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish winning the bunch sprint to take victory in the 157km final stage.
Gesink won two stages en route to the title, finishing comfortably on Mattrah Seafront, on the coast of Oman’s capital city, Muscat, with a 1-13 cushion overall over Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen.
It was the Norwegian Sky man’s second runner’s up spot at the race in as many years, but if Gesink’s victory was unexpected, Boasson Hagen has simply proven that he will be the man to watch for his British Sky squad at the upcoming spring Classics, having shown his ability knows no bounds this past week, whether climbing, sprinting or time trialling.
Italian road champion Giovanni Visconti finished off a successful fortnight for his Farnese Vini team at the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman by taking the third spot on the podium, having delivered an impressive second place on Saturday’s hilly time trial stage in Oman.
But Cavendish’s first victory of 2011 was the talk of Muscat town as Oman’s equivalent of the Champs-Elysees attracted large crowds to watch some of the world’s biggest names in cycling in full flight.
Right from the gun in pretty coastal town Qurayyat, 157 kilometres earlier, the customary five-man break had headed out on what even they themselves knew was likely to be a fruitless, suicidal day in the saddle.
But Geox’s Daniele Ratto, An Post’s Mark Cassidy, Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Dmytro Krivtsov (Lampre) and Topsport Vlaanderen’s Pieter Serry – all of whom have featured in breaks or attempted breaks at this week’s race – must have had the sprinters’ teams just a little rattled when they were still hanging on with two laps of the stage’s 7km finishing circuit to go.
But with a lap to go, it was all over as new young sprint sensation Andrea Guardini’s Farnese Vini squad joined Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad outfit at the head of affairs.
HTC’s Matt Goss – already a stage winner at this race – led out the sprint, delivering Cavendish to the front with 200 metres to go and, from there, his first win of 2011 was a formality as he finished a length clear of Katusha’s Denis Galimzyanov – another sprinter who has had an excellent two weeks at the tours of Qatar and Oman – with Guardini third.
Gesink finished safely in the bunch, successfully avoiding a crash with four kilometres to go, which claimed among others BMC’s new slim-line Greg Van Avermaet, who as a result lost his excellent 10th place held going into the final stage to finish down in 24th overall.
Gesink, meanwhile, was thrilled to have claimed the Tour of Oman title – something he hadn’t expected to get a sniff at when starting the race on Tuesday.
“I was really only here to target one stage – stage four with the summit finish, on Friday,” the Dutchman admitted. “That worked out, and also gave me the leader’s jersey, but then to win the time trial yesterday [Saturday] was a really big surprise.
“But today was the perfect scenario for our team with the other guys wanting to ride for the bunch sprint, and it feels great to get the win overall.”
Tour of Oman 2011, stage six: Qurayyat – Mattrah Seafront, 157km
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad in 3.39.58
2. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
3. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Farnese Vini
4. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Geox
5. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Quick Step
6. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo
7. Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel) Skil-Shimano
8. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
9. Stijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
10. Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank all same time
34. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly
66. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo both same time
69. Russell Downing (GB) Sky at 15 secs
94. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 1-14
118. Mark McNally (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 3-49
Final overall classification
1. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky at 1-13
3. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Farnese Vini at 1-19
4. Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Highroad at 1-52
5. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Cervelo at 2-04
6. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard-Trek at 2-11
7. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step at 2-13
8. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard-Trek at 2-19
9. Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Farnese Vini at 2-51
10. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Sky at 3-03
17. Russell Downing (GB) Sky at 6-20
73. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 21-58
82. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky at 25-23
88. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 27-00
93. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 27-33
115. Mark McNally (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 32-18
Points jersey: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
Best young rider: Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
Most aggressive rider: Marko Kump (Slo) Geox
Best team: Leopard-Trek (Lux)
Early escape group
Leopard-Trek hit the front
Mark Cavendish opens his account for 2011 with a final stage win
Robert Gesink celebrates his overall win, flanked by (left) third-placed Giovanni Visconti and (right) second-placed Edvald Boasson Hagen