Astana extended their winning streak on Monday with Alexey Lutsenko winning his second consecutive stage of the Tour of Oman.
The Kazakh champion attacked his remaining rivals on the final climb of today’s 192.5km stage to Qirayyat, holding off a charging Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC).
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The win concluded an exciting final two hours which waxed and waned, with various groups being dropped, caught and re-forming.
Along with a number of other favourites, Lutsenko had been part of a group of around 35 which formed after the first ascent of the final climb, ahead of a closing 42km circuit. That group closed down the day’s break of 10, catching the final pair with around 11km to go.
The closing 2.8km climb averaged 6.5 per cent, and was seen as one for the puncheur and, as such it was Dimension Data, working for South African Ryan Gibbons, who finished second on Sunday, who led onto the final ascent.
Their last rider peeled off approaching the final kilometre, and after a brief lull Lutsenko made his move, with no one able to match his power.
The victory is Astana’s eighth win in the same number of days. Over the weekend they won two stages and the general classification at the Vuelta Ciclista de Murcia and the overall at Colombia 2.1.
With his two wins in Oman, Lutsenko now looks well placed to repeat last year’s overall success. Then he finished second on the race’s signature stage to Green Mountain, and could equal the feat when the race tackles the same route on Wednesday.
How it happened
Once again almost as soon as the flag dropped there were attacks, though unlike the previous stages, the aggressors found it more difficult to get away.
However, before the early ascent of Al Jabal Street ten riders had escaped, and by the time Preben van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) bagged maximum points at the top, they had a lead exceeding two minutes.
Hoping to defend his lead in the combativity classification, Van Hecke was joined by team mate Piet Allegaert, Kevin Reza (Vital Concept), Niccolò Bonifazio (Direct Energie), Evan Huffman (Rally UHC), Lukas Spengler (Wallonie-Bruxelles), José Viejo ( Euskadi-Murias), Julien Duval (Ag2R) and the Roompot-Charles pair of Maurits Lammertink and Arjen Livyns.
The break continued to build their lead as they crossed the Tropic of Cancer, heading south and with 60km covered had built an advantage of 6-30, and with a number of those riders just 1-38 behind general classification, the virtual leader was up the road.
Starting the day in the overall lead Alexander Kristoff knew he was unlikely to retain the red jersey and his UAE Team Emirates team did not take responsibility for the chase, which instead first fell to French Pro Continental squad Arkea-Samsic, who had no riders ahead.
However, even when some of the WorldTour teams came to assist the gap failed to close significantly. When Van Hecke took the final intermediate sprint with 65km remaining, the lead was 5-55 and, even with a stiff headwind, success for the breakaway was still possible.
However, with 60km to go, in a section of crosswinds, Lutsenko’s Astana team came to the front, upping the pace and causing a split in the bunch, and from there a group of 14 favourites formed, closing the gap significantly.
Though that group of favourites more than doubled in size shortly after they crossed the line for the first time, the gap to the escapees had shrunk to just two minutes and the die was cast for Lutsenko’s win.
Four classified climbs punctuate stage four’s 131km between Yiti and the Oman Convention and Exhibition centre, making it another for the all-rounder.
Tour of Oman 2019, stage three: Shati Al Qurum to Qurayyat (195.5km)
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 4-35-48
2. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 1 second
3. Greg van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
4. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain Merida, at 4s
6. Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles, at 6s
7. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2R La Mondiale, at 11s
8. Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept
9. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkea Samsic
10. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 11-37-37
2. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 18 seconds
3. Greg van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team, at 20s
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