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With a powerful attack, Nibali rode to a solo win on the Green Mountain in stage 4 of the Tour of Oman, putting 9 seconds into Bardet and 12 seconds into teammate Fuglsang; the Italian is the new overall leader

Photo: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/Kåre Dehlie Thorstad

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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JAKOB FUGLSANG

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ROMAIN BARDET

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TOUR OF OMAN

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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19.02.2016 @ 13:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) showed that he is finally ready to have a good spring season after years of early-season travails when he rode to an impressive solo win in the infamous queen stage of the Tour of Oman. On the brutally steep slopes of the Green Mountain, he dropped his fellow climbers with a strong solo attack and put 9 seconds into Romain Bardet (Ag2r) at the finish while his teammate Jakob Fuglsang was three seconds further back in third. Nibali is the new leader of the race.

 

A few years ago, Vincenzo Nibali was known as one of the most consistent riders of the peloton, with the Italian obtaining results throughout the entire season. However, for the past two seasons, his springs have been littered with travails and his first wins have come in June at his National Championships.

 

This year Nibali has claimed to finally have had a good winter and the early signs have been that he is ready for a big sprint. After suffering from illness, he rode solidly in the Tour de San Luis and this week he has been flying at the Tour of Oman.

 

His performance in stage 2 where he sprinted to second in a punchy finale that didn’t really suit him, made him the big favourite for the queen stage to the top of the Green Mountain where he is a past winner in 2012. Back then, a stupid mistake in a flat stage cost him the overall victory but this year he has done nothing to hide his intentions to win the race overall.

 

Based on his performance when the peloton tackled a longer and harder version of the famous climb in today’s queen stage, nothing will prevent Nibali from adding the Omani race to his palmares. The Italian was the strongest and took a fabulous solo win and the leader’s jersey.

 

After a 10-rider break had dominated the early part of the stage, Dimension Data, Astana, Fortuneo-Vital Concept and Ag2r had combined forces to bring it back on the lower slopes of the climb where the GC riders started their game. Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) opened the battle by surging clear while Nibali waited in the splintering peloton.

 

Romain Bardet was the next to give it a go with 3km to go and he passed the fading Argentinean while Nibali combined forces with teammate Jakob Fuglsang, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) to form a chase group. Inside the final kilometre, Nibali made his move and he went straight past Bardte. Behind the Italian, the average gradient of 10.7% made the group explode and riders were fighting their way to the top on 1-2-rider groups.

 

While Nibali maintained his speed, Bardet held on to second, crossing the line just 9 seconds later. Fuglsang made it a fantastic day for Astana as he was just 3 seconds further back in third while Dumoulin put in a great ride on such a steep mountain to finish fourth, 18 seconds behind. Costa completed the top 5 while Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) in 11th, Richie Porte (BMC) in 24th and Daniel Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) in 27th were left disappointed.

 

Race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) did well to take 10th, 1.10 behind Nibali, but he dropped to 6th in the overall standing and is now 1.16 behind the Italian who takes the lead with a 15-second advantage over Bardet. Nibali faces another big GC day tomorrow when the riders will tackle the infamous Bousher Al Amerat three times inside the final 50km of a stage that has a lumpy start with two smaller climber. From there top of the final climb, there are just 13.5km and history has proved that the GC can be changed on the tough circuit on the outskirts of Muscat.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, it was time for the traditional queen stage which brought the riders over 177km from Knowledge Oasis Muscat to the top of the famous Green Mountain. After a gradually rising first part, the riders followed flat desert roads in the second half of the stage until they got to the bottom of the final ascent which was 1800m longer than it has been in past year. The riders faced a 7.5km climb which averaged 10.7% which made the climb a brutally hard challenge at this early point of the year.

 

Yesterday’s rain had been replaced by sunny conditions when the riders headed out for their neutral ride. The riders that finished yesterday’s stage were all present.

 

10 riders get clear

Most aggressive rider Kenny Dehaes (Wanty) who has been in the break every day was very active as he tried to get clear alongside his teammate Björn Thurau but thy had no luck and things were still together after 6km of racing. The attacking continued and it was Daniel Oss (BMC) and Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) who laid the foundations for the early break.

 

Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Argon 18), Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep), Simone Antonini, Robin Stenuit (both Wanty), Berden De Vries (Roompot), Stijn Steels (Topsport Vlaanderen), Bradley White (Unitedhealthcare) and Michael Reihs (Stölting) took off in pursuit and managed to join the leaders. The 10-rider front group had to work hard before they had extended their advantage to a minute.

 

A fast start

At the 16km mark, the gap had gone out to 1.15 and the escapees were working well together. However, the peloton was reluctant to let such a big group get a big advantage and so the gap was only 2.35 at the 36km mark.

 

A combination of a strong break and tailwind made it a very fast start to the stage and the riders covered no less than 46.1km during the first hour. The gap briefly reached about four minutes but at the 63.5km mark it had been brought down to 3.45.

 

Three teams lead the chase

Dimension Data, Astana and Ag2r hit the front of the peloton and kept the gap relatively stable. It was still 3.50 after 85km of racing where Steels beat Keisse and Cimolai in the first intermediate sprint.

 

The pace had gone slightly down in the second hour during which only 43.5km were covered but the escapees were still setting a brisk pace. With 85km to go, they had pushed the gap out to 4.05.

 

Fortuneo-Vital Concept come to the fore

This was the signal for the peloton to up the pace and twelve kilometres later, the three chasing teams had reduced the gap to 3.40. However, the escapees responded well and with 47km to go, the gap was unchanged.

 

Impressively, the gap was still 3.45 as the front ten entered the final 25km but they got a new enemy when Fortuneo-Vital Concept also started to chase in the peloton. However, they managed to stay clear for the second intermediate sprint at the bottom of the mountain where Antonini and Steunit made it a 1-2 for Wanty to protect Dehaes’ most aggressive rider jersey, with Steels rolling across the line in third. The group was still clear by the time they hit the climb and fragmented but they were quickly swallowed up by the GC riders who battled it out in the end.

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