Sonny Colbrelli opened Bahrain-Merida’s account at the Tour of Oman on Tuesday, winning stage four in a bunch sprint. The Italian was clearly the strongest in the final, with clear air between him and second placed Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team).
Clément Venturini (Ag2R) was a close third place after what was a tough day in the saddle for the 120-strong peloton.
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An undulating course and strong breakaway meant the bunch finish was not a given. As the peloton entered the closing five kilometres a group of three riders, who had been out front since the 20km mark, still had 30 seconds lead and the catch was not inevitable.
Even as they entered the finishing straight the trio had not been caught, but it was heartbreak as they were finally swallowed up in the final 500m.
How it happened
At just 131km the shortest stage of the six started in frantic fashion. As the race left Yiti, heading for the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, a number of riders tried to get away on the wide but steep opening stretch.
After five kilometres, a group of five managed to escape, though clearly the make up was not to race leader, Alexey Lutsenko’s liking as his Astana squad set about bringing them back as the race passed though the craggy, pink moonscape south of Muscat.
Only after 20km of fighting did three riders manage to escape. Ian Boswell (Katusha-Alpecin), Darwin Atapuma (Cofidis) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (CCC Team) gaining 30 seconds. They were then chased down by Jérémy Leveau (Delko-Marseille Provence) and Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) bringing a fighting force of five riders in the day’s breakaway.
With 38km behind them, at the top of the second classified climb of the day they had stretched their lead to 3-35, where it settled, the race skirting the Muscat conurbation, heading for the triple ascent of Al Jabal Street.
There, the gap began drop slightly, the leaders leaders losing 30 seconds by time they had scaled the second and hardest ascent, with Van Avermaet’s CCC team doing the work, and Van Hooydonck easing off in the break.
It was only when first Laveau, then Gaudian fell back that any significant inroads were made into the escapees’ advantage, though they still entered the final five kilometres ahead. Even then, it was only when Van Hooydonck stopped working, to either assist Van Avermaet behind or to boost his own chances, that the trio’s fate was sealed.
Wednesday’s 152km stage sees the peloton take on Jabal Al Akhdhar – Green Mountain – and is sure to decide the general classification. Race leader Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) finished second there last year en route to winning overall and could well repeat the performance on Wednesday.
Tour of Oman 2019, stage four: Yiti (Al Sifah) to Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (131km)
1. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, in 3-17-09
2. Greg van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
3. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2R LA Mondiale
4. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
6. Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
7. Iuri Filosi (Ita) Delko-Marseille Provence
8. Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles
9. Milan Menten (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, all at same time.
General classification after stage four
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz), in 14-54-46
2. Greg van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team, at 14 seconds
3. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 18s
4. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 24s
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 27s
6. Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles, at 29s
7. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data, at 30s
8. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkea Samsic, at 34s
9. Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept
10. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2R La Mondiale, all at same time