After yesterday’s second place, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) made amends by winning stage three of the Tour of Oman at Al Dayqah Dam.
The Olympic champion attacked with 500 technical metres left of the 179.5km route left, eventually beating Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) by three seconds.
Astana, working for eventual third placed Alexey Lutsenko had upped the pace on the final classified climb, eight kilometres out, but they were unable to shake Van Avermaet’s BMC Racing team-mates, who protected the Belgian until his uphill attack.
Starting at the German University of Technology, the stage was the longest of this week’s six days, and with that in mind, the peloton was happy to let a break go clear. Indeed, the moment the bunch reached the wide open roads of the early kilometres, four riders escaped.
Wearing the gold jersey of the most aggressive rider, Cofidis’s Loïc Chetout made the group and was joined by Nicholas Schultz (Caja-Rural), Wouter Wippert (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), and Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert). The quartet were soon allowed to establish a lead of around three minutes which they sustained until late in the day.
As he had been yesterday, Chetout was combative, taking maximum points from the first two of three classified climbs and both intermediate sprints, the Frenchman clearly intending to win the gold jersey overall.
Riding through the valley south of Muscat the race fell into a lull, the peloton monitoring the break’s advantage as they passed hundreds of rocky outcrops – miniature versions of the distant mountains – behind which towns and villages were hidden.
With Wippert dropped on the second climb of the day the break’s advantage began to drop as the race approached the final, combative kilometres of the stage. Chetout soon followed, sitting up the moment he won the final sprint, and with the break down to two, they were caught just after the 20km to go marker.
Speaking with journalists near the finish, Van Avermaet was clearly pleased with his day’s work.
“It was a hard finish, I knew it form 2013 when I was second here, and I just tried to do the same. I had better legs, because the moment I wanted to go I was able to, and then it was about just getting to the finish as fast as possible.
“We came at just the right place, with the descent at three K to go, putting myself in the perfect position, and it was nice to finish off the team work.”
Despite now leading the general classification by three seconds ahead of Costa and Lutsenko, Van Avermaet does not think he can win overall.
“I’m not expecting to win the Tour of Oman here, but I’m here now in the leader’s jersey and tomorrow I’m going to try to defend it. Then I think Green Mountain will be for the climbers so they can take it over again. I think on a climb like that I am going to lose two minutes on the best climbers.
Tomorrow’s 117.5km stage between Yiti and the Ministry of Tourism will be explosive, with four classified climbs before a fast final 13 kilometres.
“It’ll be hard to control,” said Van Avermaet, “But we have a strong team. I was already second there a few times, so maybe I will try to go for another stage win.”
Tour of Oman 2018, stage three: German University of Technology to Wadi Dayqah Dam, 179.5km
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, in 4-36-04
2. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 3 secs
3. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team, at same time
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at same time
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 7 scs
6. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana, at same time
7. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 9 secs
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
9. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana
10. Jesus Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, in 12-56-44
2 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, at 11 secs
3 Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 13 secs
4 Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 19 secs
5 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 25 secs
6 Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana
8 Jesus Herrada (Esp) Cofidis
9 Daniel Navarro (Esp) Cofidis, all at same time
10 Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data, at 33 secs