There seems to be no stopping Andre Greipel at the moment.
Even losing touch over the day’s last climb and a stop-start sprint couldn’t prevent the Lotto-Belisol man from taking his fifth win of the year on stage four of the Tour of Oman, ahead of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Tony Gallopin (Radioshack-Nissan).
The finale was a fight between attacking climbers and hardened sprinters on a nagging finishing circuit around Al Wadi al Kabir, which featured a short, steep hill, nine kilometres before the finish.
Beforehand, tallest man in the bunch Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was the day’s hero, escaping early on with countryman Klaas Lodewyck (BMC) and, latterly, holding off the bunch alone until the final ten kilometres.
Flurry of attacks
Once on the last climb, Marco Pinotti started a flurry of attacks that saw Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), Jakob Fuglsang (Radioshack-Nissan), Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) and versatile Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) escape.
But their bold move came to naught three kilometres out, and Greipel edged the 50-strong bunch sprint for victory – to his own shock.
“With 200 to go, I came down the side of the road and there was a bump,” Greipel told journalists at the finish. “So I had to stop sprinting; Sagan went past me, and I thought it’d be impossible to pass him again. Somehow I managed to just do it.”
“I don’t have my most professional weeks behind me, so it’s a big surprise [to be going so well],” he said.
Greipel also thanked his teammates for keeping him motivated and bringing him back into position off the final climb.
Greipel circumspect about San Remo
Greipel’s strong climbing and early-season glut of victories bodes well for his avowed goal of Milan-San Remo, four weeks tomorrow.
But the race leader was terse on the matter. “It’s one month away,” he said. “I take it race by race, every race is important.”
The overall Tour of Oman victory will be decided on tomorrow’s fifth stage, which finishes on the 5.7-kilometre, 10.5% climb of Green Mountain.
Tour of Oman 2012, stage four: Bidbid (Nafa’a) to Al Wadi Al Kabir, 142.5km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol in 3-37-02
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
3. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
5. Chris Sutton (Aus) Sky
6. Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing
7. Pier Paolo De Negri (Ita) Farnese Vini
8. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda
10. Baden Cooke (Aus) GreenEdge all same time
94. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 4-36
Overall classification after stage four
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol in 13-36-33
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale at 6 secs
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 18 secs
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan at 18 secs
5. Baden Cooke (Aus) GreenEdge at 19 secs
6. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank at 21 secs
7. Chris Sutton (Aus) Sky at 22 secs
8. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) RadioShack-Nissan at 25 secs
9. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda at 25 secs
10. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan at 29 secs
38. Alex Coutts (GBr) RTS Racing at 1-22
49. Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky at 2-19
74. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Barracuda at 4-10
80. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at 4-37
88. Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky at 6-37
101. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 8-31
102. Lee Rodgers (GBr) RTS Racing at 9-09
103. Jeremy Hunt (GBr) SKy at 9-09
Jeremy Hunt and Mark Cavendish
Stage four scenery
Andre Greipel takes his second stage win at the Tour of Oman
Andre Greipel increased his overall lead
Tour of Oman 2012: Stage reports
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