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After his teammate van Rensburg was caught less than 10km from the finish, Boasson Hagen beat Van Avermaet and Canola in a 40-rider sprint on stage 5 of the Tour of Oman; Nibali retained the leader’s jersey

Photo: QPC/Paumer/Kare Dhelie Thorstad

DIMENSION DATA

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EDVALD BOASSON HAGEN

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GREG VAN AVERMAET

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MARCO CANOLA

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TOUR OF OMAN

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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20.02.2016 @ 13:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) continued the Norwegian domination of the Middle East by claiming his second stage win at the Tour of Oman on the penultimate day of the race. After a breakaway with his teammate Jacques van Rensburg was caught with less than 10km to go, he came out on top in a 40-rider sprint as he held off Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Marco Canola (Unitedhealthcare). Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) responded to Romain Bardet’s (Ag2r) attacks and defended the overall lead.

 

When he joined MTN-Qhubeka for the 2015 season, Edvald Boasson Hagen had disappeared into an anonymous domestique role at Sky and he had failed to live up to his lofty expectations. In fact the prolific winner had just taken three victories in his final two years with the British team and hadn’t won an international race for more than 18 months.

 

His fortunes changed when he broke his drought on May 31 at the Tour des Fjords and he managed to take another two victories before the end of the year. However, it now seems that he has returned to his previous winning rate and after less than a month of racing in 2016 he has already reached the same number of wins that he had in both 2013 and 2015.

 

After winning the time trial at the Tour of Qatar where he only lost the overall win due to an untimely puncture, he has been unstoppable in the Tour of Oman. He won the summit finish on stage 2 and today he added another victory as he came out on top in the hilly penultimate stage.

 

The stage ended with three passages of the difficult Bousher Al Amerat climb – twice from the easy side and once from the steep side – and a 13.5km downhill and flat run to the finish. That made it a perfect day for Boasson Hagen to go for the win in a reduced sprint but for a long time it looked like that he would never get his chance.

 

Pieter Weening (Roompot), Hugo Houle (Ag2r) and his teammate Jacques van Rensburg had been on the attack all day and no one had shown much interest in bringing them back. The front trio started to climb Bousher Al Amerat for the first time with a healthy advantage of almost 5 minutes and it was van Rensburg leading Houle and Weening over the top.

 

As they headed down the descent with 46km to go, the escapees still had a solid advantage of 4.20 and it was 3.55 when they turned around to go up the climb from the steep side. Here the pace was too much for Houle who was dropped from the break.

 

Van Rensburg attacked and left Weening behind to crest the summit as the lone leader, with Weening being second and Houle third in the KOM sprint. The peloton split significantly due to Astana’s pressure but that didn’t prevent Daniel Oss (BMC) and Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) from attacking and bridding the gap to Houle.

 

Weening rejoined van Rensburg and the leading pair entered the final 20km with a healthy advantage of 3.05 over the peloton, with the three chasers somewhere in between. They were soon picked up by the peloton which had reduced the gap to 2.05 at the bottom of the final climb.

 

Romain Bardet (Ag2r) refused to let Vincenzo Nibali have an easy day and made his expected attack on the ascent but the race leader and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) reacted immediately. The trio was brought back and it was a relatively big group that got to the summit one minute behind the leaders. Van Rensburg led Weening over the top while Bennett was first from the peloton.

 

Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18) hit the front on the descent and reduced the gap to just 38 seconds with 10km to go. Moments later, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) tried to bridge across but all their efforts were in vain.

 

Everybody was brought back and it came down to a sprint from a 40-rider group. Here Boasson Hagen unleashed his lethal power and managed to hold off Van Avermaet and Marco Canola (Unitedhealthcare) to take his second win of the week.

 

Nibali finished safely in 12th place and so holds onto his 15-second lead over Bardet.He now just needs to get safely through tomorrow’s final stage which includes two steep climbs at the midpoint but ends with three laps of a 7.5km finishing circuit at the Matrah Corniche. A small climb will test the riders slightly but a bunch sprint is the expected conclusion to the 6-day race.

 

A difficult stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, there was one more day for the GC riders at the Tour of Oman as the penultimate stage brought the riders over 119.5 hilly kilometres from Yiti (Al Sifah) to the Ministry of Tourism. After a lumpy first half with two smaller climbs, the riders got to the difficult circuit that would see them go up the Boushe Al Amerat climb thrice, two times from the easiest side and one time from the steepest. The final passage came just 13.5km from the finish from where it was a fast descent and a short flat section to the finish.

 

It was a sunny day when the riders rolled to the start of the penultimate stage. All riders that finished yesterday were present as they rolled out for the neutral ride.

 

Three riders gets clear

The short, lumpy nature of the stage was an invitation to attacks and that set the scene for a fast start. The peloton split immediately due to the many attacks before Jacques van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Hugo Houle (Ag2r) and Pieter Weening (Roompot) managed to escape.

 

Things calmed down and this allowed the front trio to push their gap out to 2.45 after 20km of racing before they rolled through the first intermediate sprint, with van Rensburg leading Houle and Weening across in the line. The South African was also first over the top of the first climb, followed by Houle and Weening.

 

Lampre-Merida start to chase

The peloton took a deep breather and so the gap had gone out to a massive 5.10 at the 32km mark. It even reached 6.15 as Astana had no interest in bringing them back and were just setting a controlling pace.

 

Van Rensburg led Houle and Weening across the line at the top of the second climb and the gap was still 5.35 as they headed towards the circuit. Meanwhile, the chase finally got organized when Lampre-Merida joined forces with Astana on the front of the peloton.

 

After 60km of racing, the gap had been reduced to 4.38 but the chase got slightly disrupted when a crash forced wearer of the most aggressive rider’s jersey, Stijn Steels (Topsport Vlaanderen), to abandon. That didn’t stop the three escapees who still had a healthy advantage at the bottom of the Bousher al Amerat but in the end their efforts were in vain as Boasson Hagen took the win.

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