Van Avermaet’s strong finish rounded out a successful stage plan from CCC Team with Nathan Van Hooydonck making the breakaway and the rest of the team putting the pressure on throughout the stage in a bid to drop the pure sprinters on the climbs.
Unlike the previous three stages, it was a battle to form a breakaway and eventually, after 20 kilometers, Van Hooydonck, Ian Boswell (Katusha – Alpecin), and Darwin Atapuma (Cofidis, Solutions Credit) were able to go clear, before Jeremy Leveau (Delko Marseille Provence) and Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) bridged to the trio.
The peloton, led by race leader Alexey Lutsenko’s Astana Pro Team, kept the breakaway’s advantage under four minutes and as the race reached the first ascent of the Al Jabal Street climb, the breakaway’s advantage was still hovering around the three-minute mark.
Behind, CCC Team assumed control at the front of the peloton and set a solid tempo on the second and third ascents which saw the bunch spread out in single file and many sprinters in difficulty.
The impact of the steep climbs saw the original breakaway of Van Hooydonck, Atapuma, and Boswell left in front and despite the peloton reducing the gap to under one minute inside the final 20 kilometers, the trio managed to forge on and maintain a 28-second advantage with five kilometers remaining.
With the possibility of a stage win in his sights, Van Hooydonck tried to hold on but the peloton, reduced to around 50 riders, was fast approaching and eventually reeled the trio in with 800 meters to go.
Van Avermaet, with the help of his CCC Team teammates, was in a good position under the flamme rouge and launched his sprint in the final few hundred meters but a late surge from Colbrelli saw Van Avermaet just edged out of the stage win.
With six bonus seconds collected from his second place, Van Avermaet now sits in second place overall, 14 seconds behind Lutsenko with two stages remaining.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“I think we had a great plan with the team to put someone in the breakaway and make the race hard and hopefully drop many sprinters to have a big chance for me. In the end, there were still a lot of fast guys. But, I think the race was quite hard and in the sprint, I am just a bit too honest I think and leave the gap open for another guy. Maybe, if I closed it and he has to come around then it would be a different story. It’s a bit sad for me, it’s a big disappointment because the team worked really hard and I would have liked to finish it off with a win, but it didn’t come. You have to take it like this and we have to see what the race gives tomorrow.”
“We were the only team who had a plan, I think, to make it hard today. We tried as good as possible. The guys did a big effort on the climb and I’m pretty proud of them. It would be super nice to finish it off. I think my form is quite good. I’m super happy with how it’s gone, especially uphill. It’s only going to give me confidence for the next races. It was really nice to win in Valencia and with second and third here it seems that the condition is there, but I prefer to win one time instead of having these results on the podium.”
Nathan Van Hooydonck:
“The whole team was pretty much in front at the start. Everybody who was supposed to try and go in the breakaway tried and I think I was just a little bit lucky that my move was the right move. At first, I thought that Astana Pro Team didn’t really want to let us go because it costs a lot of energy to control the breakaway like this. I think it was Greg who said in the radio that I had a gap so I just kept going to the top because I attacked on a small bump. Then after the descent, I looked back and I didn’t see the bunch so I knew we were going to be in the breakaway. The two guys bridged to us to make a group of five and we were all turning, except for Atapuma, who wasn’t allowed to from his team director.”
“I really thought that we were going to make it to the line but it was the first time that I was in a situation like this where I could really try and win the race and, to be honest, I panicked a little bit and didn’t really know what to do. The fact that Atapuma didn’t pull all day and with six kilometers to go there was a small bump and he went again full gas and his attack really hurt me. I had to recover for a couple of kilometers and then I heard in the radio that we still had 20 seconds so I should have just gone full and to the finish line because I think I could have beaten these guys in the sprint. But, I made a mistake by hesitating a bit too long. I feel that my form is increasing here so I am really happy. The fact that we are here for the Classics team and that we made a plan last night and that plan worked out today which is nice to see. Everyone is doing what they are supposed to do and that gives us confidence for the Classics season.”
Valerio Piva, Sports Director:
“The plan today was to drop the sprinters because the hardest part of the stage was in the middle. So we wanted to have someone in front to support Greg as we planned to go hard in the middle on the climbs. We had Nathan in the front and we set a fast pace on the second and third time up the climb, and finally, there were around 40 riders there with 25 kilometers to go. At this point, Nathan’s group still had 30 seconds and we saw that Kristoff and Colbrelli were still in the bunch so we stopped riding to put the pressure on the other teams. Nathan was fantastic in front, he was only caught back with 800 meters. Behind, the team was around Greg to help him in the sprint. The team was fantastic, they did everything right so we cannot have any regrets about today’s stage.”
Tour of Oman
Stage Four: Yiti > Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (131km)
Top 3: 1. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida), 2. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), 3. Clement Venturini (AG2R La Mondiale)
CCC Team top 3: 2. Greg Van Avermaet, 24. Łukasz Wiśniowski, 47. Nathan Van Hooydonck.