Vincenzo NIbali (Astana) won Friday’s’s stage four of the Tour of Oman atop the brutal climb of Green Mountain, where he battled for victory with Romain Bardet (Ag2r).
The pair broke clear from a select group in the final kilometre of the ascent, with Nibali’s power in the final few metres enough to claim the race leader’s jersey, with leader at the start Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) being dropped early on the climb.
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The 180km course, which began at the Knowledge Oasis Muscat, was billed as the Queen stage and lived up to expectations. Once off the highways which constituted the early kilometres, the course rolled unforgivingly through beautiful desert mountains. If the terrain was not enough to sap early season legs, then the 27º heat and nagging wind ensured no one arrived at the foot of the Green Mountain fresh.
In an attempt to defend the most aggressive rider classification he leads, Kenny de Haes, made the first move of the day, immediately breaking clear with one of his Wanty-Groupe Gobert team mates. However they were unable to gain any more than a 15 second advantage and were soon caught, allowing a group of ten to escape and form the break of the day.
That break built a lead in excess of four minutes, but were always under control of a pack led by the favourites’ teams, and was caught with just under eight kilometres to go, at the foot of Green Mountain. The road veers up sharply and as soon as it did, the peloton began to shatter and an elite group formed.
With four kilometres to ride, and the toughest part of the climb yet to come Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep) launched an attack but failed to gan a significant advantage and, as the remaining riders entered the final two kilometres, he was dropped and just five riders remained.
Nibali now leads the general classification by six seconds ahead of Bardet with two stages left. Tomorrow’s 119.5km stage between Yiti and the Ministry of Tourism near Muscat has four tough climbs and is likely to see the main contender fighting once again.
Tour of Oman stage four, Knowledge Oasis Muscat – Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) (177km):
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, in 4-25-48
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 9 secs
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 12 secs
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant – Alpecin, at 18 secs
5. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, at 38 secs
6. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data, at 43 secs
7. George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo, st
8. Brendan Canty (Aus) Drapac, at 45 secs
9. Floris de Tier (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen, at 1-08
10. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 1-10
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, in 16-18-35
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 15 secs
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 24 secs
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant – Alpecin, at 40 secs
5. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, at 54 secs
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 1-16
7. Brendan Canty (Aus) Drapac, at 1-31
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1-38
9. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data, at 1-41
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx – QuickStep, at 1-59
Full report to follow