Last year’s overall winner Alexey Lutsenko stamped his authority on this year’s Tour of Oman on Sunday, winning stage two at Al Bustan.
In what was an exciting final, the 26-year-old Astana rider attacked a strung out peloton on a ramp preceding the final classified climb, and was able to hold on to finish alone.
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However, even as the Kazakh champion entered the final uphill straight to the line, the result was not in the bag, the peloton closing him down fast.
Eventually yesterday’s opening stage winner, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) led home a group of 35 riders to finish second, just three seconds back, with Dimension Data’s South African Ryan Gibbons just behind in third.
Having placed second on the same finish last year, Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) had targeted the stage, and tried to bridge to Lutsenko on the final classified climb, but was unable to make contact, eventually finishing 15th.
The result puts Lutsenko into second place overall, Kristoff’s second place enough for him to retain the leader’s red jersey.
How it happened
In a repeat performance of yesterday’s opening stage, four riders escaped the moment the flag dropped for the start of the 156.5km stage between Royal Cavalry Oman and Al Bustan.
Aritz Bagües (Euskadi-Murias), former Belgian champion Preben van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and his two compatriots, Jérôme Baugnies (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Lionel Taminaux (Wallonie-Bruxelles) soon opened a lead of 2.15, with just 10 kilometres behind them.
In the peloton, while he held little hope of retaining the leader’s jersey, the UAE Team Emirates team of stage one winner Alexander Kristoff led the bunch through the dusty, undulating hinterland inland from the nation’s capital, Muscat.
On the approach to the first classified climb at Fanja, with 49km gone, the leaders’ gap had risen to 3-30, though the battle for the king of the mountains classification was such that the group split into two.
However, after van Hecke took maximum points, the quartet reformed on the descent, the lead stretching to 4-30 where it stayed until Taminaux won the day’s first intermediate sprint at Saal, with 83km to go.
It was after this point that the gap began to come down, the bunch knocking a minute off the break’s lead, with Van Avermaet’s CCC squad and Lutsenko’s Astana team leading the charge.
Van Hecke attacked the break on the second of the four climbs, eking out a lead of 40 seconds on two chasers as Taminaux was conclusively dropped back to the closing bunch.
With gap now below 50 seconds, Van Hecke once again attacked on the penultimate short sharp ascent of Al Hamriyah, but when CCC surged from behind, he was finally swallowed up 16km out.
Though there are only three classified climbs during tomorrow’s 192.5km stage, the longest day of the race overall is likely to prove more challenging than Sunday’s. The uphill finish at Qurayyat is far tougher than today’s, and with the final circuit ascending it twice, a smaller group could be contesting the win.
Tour of Oman 2019, stage two: Royal Cavalry Oman to Al Bustan (156.5km)
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 4-07-19
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, at 3 seconds
3. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data
4. Iuri Filosi (Ita) Delco Marseille Provence
5. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2R La Mondiale
6. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Merida
7. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Katusha Alpecin
8. Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
9. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale
10. Magnus Cort (Den) Astana, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, in 7-01-56
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, at 3 seconds
3. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data, at 12s
4. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2R La Mondiale, at 16s
5. Iuri Filosi (Ita) Delco Marseille Provence
6. Magnus Cort (Den) Astana
7. Greg van Avermaet (Bel) CCC
8. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Tem Emirates
9. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time