Ben Hermans (BMC Racing) won stage two of the Tour of Oman, proving the fastest in a tough uphill sprint ahead of Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).
The Belgian was the strongest rider left from a greatly diminished peloton after a tough day of racing in the Middle East, opening a gap to the rest of the field in the final metres to take the leader’s jersey off the back of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin).
Hermans had been put in an excellent position going into the stage finale, as his BMC Racing team worked hard to close down a couple of late attacks, including one from Kristoff himself.
With those threats neutralised, the stage came down to a punishing uphill sprint, with Hermans powering clear to win by a couple of bike lengths as Costa edged out Fuglsang for second.
It was another fast start to stage two of the Tour of Oman with 51km covered in the first hour as the peloton was unwilling to let a breakaway gain a significant gap until more than 40km into the day.
When an escape finally went clear it consisted of Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport) and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) who established a large gap of eight minutes as the peloton relaxed behind.
But by the time the race reached the second climb of the day with 96km completed of the 145.5km stage the gap was below four minutes.
From there the catch was inevitable, with Christian the last man to be reeled in with 20km and one last climb to go.
However the lumpy finale was attractive for counter-attackers, with Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) attacking in the final 10km, quickly being joined by Daniel Eaton (UnitedHealthcare) and building an advantage of 35 seconds with 6km to go.
Seeing his overall lead under threat, Alexander Kristoff led a short-lived chasing group off the front of the peloton, but all attackers were eventually caught to set up a mass charge on the uphill finish.
BMC Racing had lead the peloton through the final kilometres, and had plenty of options for the finish with Greg Van Avermaet, Jean-Pierre Drucker, and Ben Hermans in their line-up.
But it was Hermans who launched his sprint from the front of the peloton with 200m to go on the uphill finish to pull clear of Costa and Fuglsang with Dimension Data’s Merhawi Kudus in fourth.
Tour of Oman 2017, stage two: Nakhal to Al Bustan (145.5km)
1. Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing, in 3-20-49
2. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Abu Dhabi, at same time
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at same time
4. Merhawi Kudus (Eri), Dimension Data, at 4 secs
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data, at 7 secs
6. David de la Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 7 secs
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 7 secs
8. Janier Acevedo (Col) UnitedHealthcare, at 7 secs
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, at 7 secs
10. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 7 secs
General Classification after stage two
1. Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing, in 7-07-08
2. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Abu Dhabi, at 4 secs
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 6 secs
4. Merhawi Kudus (Eri), Dimension Data, at 14 secs
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data, at 17 secs
6. David de la Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 17 secs
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 17 secs
8. Janier Acevedo (Col) UnitedHealthcare, at 17 secs
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, at 17 secs
10. Mathias Frank (Sui) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 17 secs