Katusha-Alpecin's Alexander Kristoff took his second stage win of the 2017 Tour of Oman as he managed to stay in contention over three tough climbs in the final 45km to out-sprint Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).
The Norwegian rider had already proved that he was the fastest sprinter in the race with his win on stage one, but today's stage certainly didn't look like one for the fast men on paper.
The climbs close to the finish slimmed down the field significantly, and the final ascent saw an elite group of 15 riders go off the front, including big names such as Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
That group held a small advantage on the fast descent off the climb, but were caught in the flat final few kilometres, before Kristoff proved the fastest in the reduced bunch sprint.
Overall leader Ben Hermans (BMC Racing) finished safely in the front group to hold on to his red jersey.
Stage four of the Tour of Oman saw the largest break of the race with nine riders going clear: Tanel Kangert (Astana), Axel Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), Stefan Küng (BMC Racing), Anass Ait El Abdia (UAE Abu Dhabi), Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), Stefan Denifl (Aqua Blue Sport), Mike Teunissen (Team Sunweb), Fabien Doubey (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), and Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare).
Despite the number of riders in the break, they were never able to gain more than two minutes on the peloton on the short 112km, and as the race hit the final three climbs of Bousher Al Amerat in the final 43km, the break was reduced to six as first Jungels, then Teunissen and Eaton dropped off the back.
The remnants of the break were caught on the final climb of the day, and no sooner were they brought back into the fold than an elite 15-man group counter-attacked off the front of the peloton, including overall leader Hermans, as well as Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet.
By the top of the climb the front group had 15 seconds on the chasers, and the final few kilometres saw numerous attacks which disrupted the rhythm of the group as they were caught from behind by the peloton.
Alexander Kristoff had already proved that he is the fastest sprinter in the race on stage one, and after managing to stay in the peloton over the tough final climbs, he was not going to let this opportunity slip through is fingers, comfortable winning the final sprint for the line.
Saturday will see the climbers have more of an opportunity to take the race by the scruff of the neck, with a summit finish at Jebel Akhdar before the race finishes with another sprint stage on Sunday.
Tour of Oman 2017, stage four: Yiti (Al Sifah) to Ministry of Tourism (118km)
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, in 2-50-29
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
4. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
5. Marko Kump (Slo) UAE Abu Dhabi
6. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
7. Benjamin Declercq (Bel Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
8. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale
9. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
10. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing, in 13-50-41
2. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Abu Dhabi, at 5 secs
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 13 secs
4. Merhawi Kudus (Eri), Dimension Data, at 21 secs
5. David de la Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 22 secs
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 23 secs
7. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, at 24 secs
8. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at same time
9. Soren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb, at same time
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 28 secs
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