Tour of Oman queen-stage takes peloton to Green Mountain
The double-digit gradient made up for an exciting and difficult finish Saturday afternoon.
Heavy winds split the pack in the first kilometers of the penultimate stage (Samail – Jebel Al Akhdar, 152.5 kilometers) and created a 30-second gap between groups, making what was already a difficult stage even tougher. After a wild chase, the peloton came back together 25 kilometers into the stage, and at that moment five riders got away: Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Daniel Diaz (Delko Marseille), Olivier Pardini (WB Veranclassic) and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
The quintet managed to open quite a big margin, helped also by the fact several riders crashed in the first part of the day and the pack slowed down, and led the race until the first slopes of Jebel Al Akhdar, the iconic climb of the Tour of Oman, where they were reabsorbed by the bunch.
First to make a move there was Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data), but despite holding a 20-second gap two kilometers away from the finish, he was reeled in by the favourites' group. Attacks kept coming, and Merhawi Kudus put some daylight between him and his opponents under the flamme rouge, but in the end it was overall leader Ben Hermans (BMC) who took the win, ahead of Fabio Aru (Astana) and Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi).
Quick-Step Floors duo David De La Cruz and Laurens De Plus fought bravely on the leg-sapping Green Mountain (5.7 kilometers, 10.5% average gradient), one of the toughest stages in pro cycling, and concluded the stage in the top 20, a result which sees them sit in 11th, respectively 13th place before the last stage of the race, one for the sprinters, between The Wave and Mattrah Corniche (130.5 kilometers).
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele