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Kristoff lived up to his status as the huge favourite by winning the bunch sprint on the third stage of the Tour of Oman, with Hofland in second and Jans in third; Boasson Hagen is still the overall leader

Photo: Paumer Kare Dhelie Thorstad

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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MORENO HOFLAND

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TOUR OF OMAN

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18.02.2016 @ 12:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) continued his dominance of the sprints in 2016 by taking another comfortable victory in the first bunch kick at the Tour of Oman. After a nervous day on wet roads in the desert, he was clearly the fastest and held off Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Roy Jans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) to win stage 3 while Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) defended the overall lead.

 

Alexander Kristoff drifted backwards in his first sprint of the year in the first stage of the Tour of Qatar but since then no one has been able to beat the Norwegian in sprints. Mark Cavendish tried another three times in Qatar but came up short and Kristoff left the Qatari Peninsula with three stage wins in his pocket.

 

Cavendish is not present in this week’s Tour of Oman where the line-up of sprinters is significantly less stacked and this has made Kristoff stand out as the overwhelming favourite for the two possible bunch kicks in the Omani race. After two days in hilly terrain, he got his first chance in today’s third stage and he left no one questioning whether he is actually the fastest rider in the race.

 

The stage was the only one in the six-day race with no categorized climbs and so it was always going to be a day for the sprinters. Katusha and Dimension Data worked hard to keep a five-rider break under control and the bunch kick was never in doubt.

 

However, it was a strange day for the riders who were hit by rare thunderstorms along the way and this made the peloton nervous on several occasions. With 40km to go, the rain returned and this made the stress again increased. At this point, only Brian Van Goethem, Ivar Slik (Roompot) and Jordan Kerby (Drapac) were left in the break and when Van Goethem beat Kerby and Slik in the second intermediate sprint with 31.5km to go, the gap was just 1.25.

 

The front trio was surprisingly strong and when they entered the final 20km, they still led the peloton by 1.25 but now they started to lose ground. When it was down to 45 seconds, Van Goethem decided to go solo and he managed to stay clear until less than 10km remained.

 

However, the sprint teams managed to bring it all back together and then it was the usual battle between the lead-out trains. In the end, Katusha proved to be the strongest and they again delivered Kristoff to victory, with the Norwegian holding off Moreno Hofland and Roy Jans in the final dash to the line.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen had to settle for 10th in the sprint but that was enough to defend his overall lead of 4 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He now faces the hardest test of the race in the queen stage which finishes at the top of the Green Mountain. After a long gradual uphill drag, the riders will tackle flat roads until they hit the bottom of the brutally steep 7.5km climb that averages a massive 10.7%.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s summit finish, the sprinters were expected to get a rare chance in the 2016 Tour of Oman on stage 3 which brought the riders over 176.5km from Al Sawadi Beach to the finish at Naseem Park. The first part of the stage consisted of a long gradual uphill drag into the desert before the riders descended back to the coast for a flat finale. Unless the wind would be strong, a bunch kick was the expected outcome.

 

It was bright sunshine when the riders gathered for the start at Al Sawadi Beach. Johan Vansummeren (Ag2r) was the only non-starter as they rolled out for their neutral ride.

 

Five riders get clear

With little wind and a bunch sprint on the cards, it was no surprise that the stage got off to a slow start and the early break was formed almost straight from the gun. Kenny Dehaes (Wanty), Ivar Slik, Brian Van Goethem (Roompot), Kenneth Van Rooy (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Jordan Kerby (Drapac) attacked and has already put 2.00 into the peloton after 10km of racing.

 

The peloton was in no hurry and the gap had gone out to 3.20 by the time Dimension Data and Katusha started to chase. Nonetheless, the five escapees had managed to increase their advantage to 3.45 as they headed into the desert with a tailwind.

 

Rain starts to fall

Rain had been forecasted and the sky got very dark by the time the riders reached the site of the first intermediate sprint. Dehaes who was in the break for the third day in a row, easily beat Van Rooy while Slik rolled across the line in third.

 

The wet roads made the peloton very nervous and as a consequence, the gap came down quickly. Suddenly it was down to just 2 minutes after the second hour of racing at which point the riders had averaged 43.7km/h.

 

The break splits up

The peloton calmed down again as they got back onto dry toads and as a consequence, the gap had been pushed out to 3.40 with 72km to go. However, the break lost a bit of momentum when Van Rooy had to rejoin the group after a puncture.

 

There was no great cooperation in the break and a bit of attacking meant that Dehaes and Van Rooy were dropped. Meanwhile, the peloton had started to chase in earnest and reduced the gap to 2.15. The front trio did their best but it was all in vain and in the end it was another win for Kristoff.

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