Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) sprinted to victory on stage four of the 2018 Tour of Oman on Friday.
The 25-year-old Dane, who joined Astana for Orica-Scott over the winter, won from a group of around 25 riders, out-sprinting Italians Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) and Alberto Bettiol (BMC) after a tough, but short stage which included four classified climbs.
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After shaking hands with his colleagues and team management, the first thing Cort Nielsen did after winning stage four of the Tour of Oman was check his Garmin.
“I had to see the peak power,” he told Cycling Weekly, and while he would not say an exact figure he added, “Above 20 watts per kilo.”
“I was feeling good over the climbs, they were not raced aggressively,” Cort Nielsen continued.
“Only the last kilometre of the last climb was hurting, but I was in a decent position and I was able to slide back a couple of positions without going too much into the red zone. I still knew I had something left for my sprint coming down the hill.”
How it happened
The 117km stage began at the Al Sifah resort at Yiti, south of Muscat, the peloton battling through tight wadi roads, up and down short but steep climbs. Six riders eventually escaped, led almost inevitably by Loïc Chetout (Cofidis) wearing the golden jersey as the leader of the most aggressive rider classification.
He was joined by Remi Cavagna (Quick-Step Floors), Casper Pedersen (Aqua Blue), Pieter Weening (Roompot Nederlandse Lotterij), Jon Irisarri (Caja Rural) and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data) in the break.
Through the tight rural roads they established a gap of around two minutes, before the BMC team of overall race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) took the front of the peloton, maintaining that deficit.
Despite a substantial lead in the aggressive rider classification, Chetout continued to hoover up points on both the hills and the intermediate sprints before being the first to drop from the group on the first classified ascent of Al Jabal Street, a climb they were to go over and back twice.
Before then, with 50km to go Bahrain-Merida joined BMC on the front of the bunch and the gap to the leaders began to close. It was the Katusha-Alpecin team of stage one winner Nathan Haas who brought the break to heel though, catching them just after the peloton turned round to retrace the Al-Jabal climb, after the first ascent.
Though subsequent flurry of attacks proved unsuccessful, they did serve to whittle down the peloton until the final selection was made for the run into the finish at the Omani Ministry of Tourism.
With two second places and a full set of top ten finishes Cort Nielsen placed second on general classification at last week’s Dubai Tour, and was relived to finally bag a win as he looks forward to the northern classics.
“It’s good to get a win so early in the season. The team did an amazing job guiding me into the final. Lutsenko did very well, so I have to thank him for this win.
“It is good to get the race feeling and get in some finals, but the races are completely different, with big roads, not much stress and sitting in for the final. Belgium is completely the opposite.”
Van Avermaet retained his leader’s jersey on today’s stage, while Cort Nielsen will return to a domestique role for tomorrow’s 152km Queen stage from Sama’il to Jabal al Akhdhar.
The five kilometre final climb averages 10 per cent and will be one for the climbers, with the Dane’s team-mates Alexey Lutsenko and Miguel Lopez Moreno the team’s protected riders. The race concludes on Sunday, February 18.
Tour of Oman 2018, stage four: Yiti (Al Sifah) to Ministry of Tourism, 117.5km
1. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana, in 2-57-36
2. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC Racing
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
5. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
6. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
7. Mark Christian (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport
8. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data
9. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Jesus Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, all same time
General classification after stage four
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, in 15-54-20
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, at 9 secs
3. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 13 secs
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 19 secs
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana, at 24 secs
6. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 25 secs
7. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 25 secs
8. Jesus Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 25 secs
9. Daniel Navarro (Esp) Cofidis, at 25 secs
10. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data, at 33 secs