As expected, the final stage of the Tour of Oman came down to a bunch sprint, with Dimension Data’s Giacomo Nizzolo taking the honours. The Italian was led out consummately by team-mate Ryan Gibbons, who finished fifth, capping a good day for the team.
In what was a close fought sprint, Nizzolo managed to pip compatriot Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) into second place, with another Italian, Davide Ballerini (Astana) in third.
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Ballerini’s team-mate, Alexey Lutsenko finished in the bunch, enough to win the general classification for the second consecutive year.
Lutsenko was the dominant rider throughout the six stage race. He took the overall lead in stage three and not relinquishing it while winning two further stages, including Wednesday’s queen stage to Jabar Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain).
Astana themselves have had an excellent month, bagging ten victories in February alone.
Kazakh champion Lutsenko will travel home before heading to Belgium for the Opening Weekend where he will ride Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. He is however, expected to skip the other northern Classics in favour of the Ardennes in April.
How it happened
The 135.5km sixth stage between Al Mouj Muscat and Matrah Corniche, saw a huge fight to get in the early breakaway. Though CCC’s Nathan Van Hooydonck escaped in the opening kilometre, behind him it was chaos, as group after group tried their luck, only to be brought back by a raging peloton.
In the end the bunch saw fit to allow three individuals go up the road, each of them catching the leader one by one until, after 17km a group of four formed.
Van Hooydonck was joined by Stijn Vandenbergh (Ag2R), Alexis Guerin (Delko-Marseille Provence) and Adam de Vos (Rally-UHC), and over the ensuing 10km the quartet set about increasing their lead to 3-20.
Behind, the Astana team of race leader Alexey Lutsenko were allowed a rest as some of the sprinters’ teams took responsibility for managing the gap, which remained constant until 35km.
Then, a brief period of crosswinds saw Direct Energie threatening to split the bunch, though they did not have time before the course changed direction, and all they actually achieved was to reduce the gap to the leaders to 2-30. There the lead remained as the race sped along Oman’s version of the M25, the Muscat Expressway, bypassing the built up coastal strip.
The race finally left the main roads, passing through crowded village streets before tackling the short but painfully steep climb of Al Hamriyah. By this time, with 52km to go, the bunch had closed in further, the gap down to 1-48.
From thereon the leaders’ advantage was whittled away gently by a peloton that was never out of control. With Guerin dropped early on the first of three closing 7.5km laps, the breakaway’s fate was sealed and they were eventually caught on the final circuit.
The day was not without incident, however. Winner on the Corniche for the preceding three years, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) was caught in a crash and forced to abandon with an injured knee, while Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) suffered severe road rash, apparently in the same incident, but continued to finish second overall.
Tour of Oman 2019, stage six: Al Mouj Muscat to Matrah Corniche (135.5km)
1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Dimension Data in 3-07-12
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana
4. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2R
5. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data
6. Boris Vallée (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7. Reto Hollenstein (Sui) Katusha-Alpecin
8. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen
9. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel
10. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 21-45-51
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