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After another textbook lead-out, Kristoff took a dominant win in the bunch sprint on the final stage of the Tour of Oman, holding off Waeytens and Kragh Andersen in the dash to the line; Nibali took the overall victory

Photo: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/Kåre Dehlie Thorstad

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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JAKOB FUGLSANG

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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ROMAIN BARDET

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SØREN KRAGH ANDERSEN

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TOUR OF OMAN

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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21.02.2016 @ 13:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) made it an even more successful Middle Eastern campaign for him than the one he had 12 months ago by claiming another dominant victory in the final stage of the Tour of Oman. After another textbook lead-out from his Katusha teammate, he easily held off the Giant-Alpecin pair of Zico Waeytens and Søren Kragh Andersen in the bunch sprint to claim his fifth win in just 11 days of racing. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished safely in the bunch to secure overall victory ahead of Romain Bardet (Ag2r) and his teammate Jakob Fuglsang.

 

Last year Alexander Kristoff started the most successful season of his career by winning three stages in the Tour of Qatar and claiming a single win in the Tour of Oman. That set him up for the most successful season of his career as he proved to be unstoppable in most of the sprint.

 

If the indications in the Middle East are a sign of what’s to come, Kristoff will be even stronger in the 2016 classics. This year he leaves the desert states with even more success after he added the final stage of the Omani race to the three victories he took in Qatar and the one he took in stage 3 a few days ago. It capped a formidable two weeks for Norway as Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen took a total of 8 wins during the 11 days of racing in Qatar and Oman.

 

Last year Kristoff had also been the big favourite for the final stage but back then his team had not got much support in their attempt to catch the breakaway. Hence, the group had stayed away and Matthias Brändle denied Kristoff the victory.

 

This year they refused to make a similar mistake so when the big group Sebastien Minard (Ag2r), Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Argon 18), Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen), Daniel Eaton (Unitedhealthcare), Jesper Asselman (Roompot) and Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC) took off, they went almost straight to work and kept the gap below the three-minute mark despite not getting much assistance.

 

The stage featured two small climbs in the second part of the race and the escapees started the climbing with 50km to go with an advantage of just 1.05 after a second hour that had seen them average 43.5km/h. Vanspeybrouck led Minard and Marycz over the top and he was also the fastest in the first intermediate sprint with 38.5km to go where he held off Asselman and Marycz.

 

At this point the gap was still 1.38 and they managed to keep most of their advantage as the peloton took it relatively easy on the climbs. Vanspeybrouck made it three in a row by winning the sprint at the top of the second climb ahead of Mühlberger and Minard.

 

Two Katusha riders led the peloton to the top 1.25 behind the escapees and as soon as they were back on flat roads, they upped the pace. With 27km to go, the gap was down to 1.05.

 

As they hit the 7.5km finishing circuit that they would cover thrice, Katusha had lined out the entire team on the front of the peloton and as they entered the final 20km, they had reduced the gap to 47 seconds. Vanspeybrouck led Meersman and Mühlberger across the line to start the penultimate lap and win the final intermediate sprint with an advantage of just 40 seconds.

 

Eaton, Marycz and Asselman were dropped from the breakaway while Minard, Vanspeybrouck, Meersman and Mühlberger dug deep in an attempt to maintain their advantage. At the start of the final lap, the group was almost caught as the sprint teams were battling for position, with Katusha, Lampre-Merida and Fortuneo-Vital Concept all featuring prominently near the front.

 

It was finally over for the escapees as they swept around the circuit for the final time and it all came down to the expected bunch sprint. Here Kristoff again proved to be unbeatable as he held off the Giant-Alpecin duo of Zico Waeytens and Søren Kragh Andersen after another textbook lead-out from his Katusha teammates.

 

Vincenzo Nibali safely reached the finish in 21st place which was enough for him to secure overall victory with a 15-second advantage over Romain Bardet. His teammate Jakob Fuglsang made it two Astana riders on the podium, 24 seconds behind.

 

With two stage wins, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) won the Norwegian battle for the points jersey while Brendan Canty (Drapac) was the best young rider with his seventh place overall. Jacques van Rensburg won the most combative rider classification and Dimension Data beat Astana in the teams classification.

 

With the Tour of Oman over, almost three weeks of racing in the Middle East have come to an end. While the attention now turns back to Europe, the region will prepare itself to welcome the stars back in October where both the Abu Dhabi Tour and the World Championships in Qatar will be on the menu.

 

A lumpy final stage

After two days in very hilly terrain, the sprinters were expected to come to the fore in the final stage which brought the riders over 130.5km from The Wave Muscat to Matrah Corniche. After a flat start, the riders tackled the climbs of Al-Hamriyah and Al Jissah at the midpoint before they headed to the coast where they ended the race by doing three laps of a 7.5km circuit in the capital of Muscat. There was a small climb on the circuit but it was a largely flat affair.

 

It was another day of beautiful sunshine when the riders gathered for the start. All riders that finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out for their neutral ride.

 

Six riders get clear

The stage may have been expected to be one for the sprinters but that didn’t dampen the attacking spirit. The start was a fast one with lots of attacks and it took time for the break to be formed.

 

After 12km of race, the first threatening move was established by Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) and Adrian Kurek (CCC) but the trio was brought back. Instead, Sebastien Minard (Ag2r), Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Argon 18), Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen), Daniel Eaton (Unitedhealthcare) and Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC) took off.

 

Katusha take control

The sextet worked hard to establish an advantage of 58 seconds before Jesper Asselman (Roompot) joined the group to make it a 7-rider breakaway. The peloton finally slowed down and the gap had gone out to 2.20 after 40km of racing.

 

Astana assumed their position on the front of the peloton but it didn’t take long for Katusha to join forces with them. The Russian team were keen to get a bunch sprint and were chasing at the end of a first hour that saw the break cover 46km.

 

The peloton refused to give the break much of an advantage and they were only 2.15 ahead after 75km of racing. After the feed zone, it was already down to 1.55 and ultimately it would all come down to the expected bunch sprint and another win for Kristoff.

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