Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko all but ensured his second consecutive Tour of Oman overall victory on Wednesday, winning an exciting stage on Jabal Al Akhdhal. The Kazakh champion blasted over the line alone, bettering his second place on the same stage last year.
With Frenchman Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) second and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) third, Lutsenko had it far from his own way as once again, the race served up another enthralling stage.
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The 26-year-old had been in peloton when they reached the bottom of the climb with more than five kilometres to go, but ahead Grellier, one of the day’s breakaway remained with around three minutes lead.
And as the peloton was eroded one by one, the hot sun sun scorching their backs on the steep slopes, his advantage was reduced only very slowly.
When he passed the two kilometre marker he still led a group of around 10 by more than a minute, but when Lutsenko and Pozzovivo attacked that group the advantage began to diminish fast.
Entering the final 100m hope still burned brightly for the Frenchman, but as he passed the 50m sign Lutsenko blasted past, putting seven seconds into the Frenchman.
Lutsenko has been the dominant rider in this year’s race, with Wednesday his third victory, and with tomorrow’s final stage unlikely to present him too much of a challenge, victory is all but assured.
How it happened
The 152km queen stage between Samayil and Jabal Al Akhdhar kicked off with a flurry of attacks, a number of riders hoping to make the day’s break. Only after six frantic but short kilometres did a group establish a gap.
Julien Duval (Ag2R), Romain Cardis and Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie), Stijn Steels (Roompot-Charles), Julien Mortier (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Kennneth Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) were allowed their head and eventually established a lead of three minutes after 19km had been raced.
Van Rooy had been placed in the bunch to defend to defend the aggressive rider classification led by team-mate Preben Van Hecke.
That classification is awarded for a combination of points earned in both intermediate sprints and classified climbs, and former Belgian champion Van Hecke led by only three points from Katusha’s Ian Boswell after the American’s stage four efforts.
As expected Van Rooy took maximum points at the first intermediate sprint before the break reached their biggest advantage of six minutes, with 70km ridden. It was then that Pozzovivo’s Bahrain-Merida squad came to the front of the peloton and began chipping away at the leaders, taking over a minute off them in just 10km.
The leaders though remained resolute and even when Van Rooy dutifully bagged maximum points at the final sprint, just 14km from the line, the lead was still above four minutes. The sprint was the last straw for the break though, and soon Grellier was alone for the final.
Though it opens with some short sharp climbs, stage six is little more than a parade lap of the Matrah Corniche, on the sea front near Muscat’s old town.
It is certainly one for the sprinters, and having won this stage for the last three years, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) seems to have the measure of the course and his stage one victory will also surely buoy him.
However, André Greipel (Arkea-Samsic), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels) are among a host of sprinters hoping to end their time in Oman on a high.
Tour of Oman 2019, stage five: Samayil to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) (152km)
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 3-44-03
2. Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie, at 7 seconds
3. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 11s
4. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 19s
5. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
6. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, all at same time
7. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 23s
8. Fabien Doubey (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 30s
9. Mathias Frank (Sui) Ag2R La Mondiale, at 39s
10. Matteo Fabro (Ita) Katusha-Alpecin, at 44s
General classification after stage five
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 18-38-39
2. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 44s
3, Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 47s
4. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 53s
5. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Arkea-Samsic, at 1-03
6. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-14
7. Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles, at 1-25
8. Fabien Doubey (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 1-31
9. Brandon McNulty (USA) Rally-UHC, at 1-43
10. Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotels, at 1-51