Tour of Oman stages 5 & 6: Cavendish breaks duck, Gesink wins overall

Stage 5  – Al Jissah, 18.5km individual time trial

On a difficult, up-and-down course, red jersey Robert Gesink consolidated his lead at the Tour of Oman by registering his first professional time trial victory. The Dutchman now holds a 1:13 advantage over Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen which all but guarantees him overall victory.

The 18.5km course at Al Jissah featured a combination of testing climbs and speedy descents, on which the fastest riders touched 110kph. The lumpy profile helped negate the advantage of the time-trial specialists and played into the hands of climbers such as Gesink.

Leopard-Trek's Jakob Fuglsang tucks down as he negotiates a rapid descent during the individual time trial (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

The serious action did not start until the top 35 riders, with HTC-Highroad‘s Marco Pinotti becoming the first man under 30 minutes, stopping the clock at 29:44. Soon after, Gesink’s Rabobank teammate Lars Boom looked on target to beat Pinotti, but an unshipped chain scuppered his chances and he finished 15 seconds down.

Gesink claimed the first time trial victory of his career (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The quality of the benchmark set by Pinotti was confirmed when the rainbow jersey of world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara fell three seconds short of his time. He was not knocked off the top of the timesheets until Farense‘s Giovanni Visconti, the fifth-last man to go, powered home in a time of 29:36 to go first by eight seconds.

Fourth-placed Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) finished 45 seconds slower than Visconti, while Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), third overnight, was exactly one minute behind. Boasson Hagen, Gesink’s nearest rival for the overall lead, had his ride slightly compromised by buffeting from a low-flying race helicopter but nonetheless posted 29:49, good enough for fifth on the day.

The best was saved for last, however. Lifted by the presence of the red jersey on his shoulders and looking smooth, powerful and confident throughout, Gesink crossed the line in 29:20, 16 seconds faster than Visconti. Most crucially, he was a whole 29 seconds faster than Boasson Hagen.

Gesink’s second straight stage win made it four out of five for Rabobank, after Théo Bos had claimed victory on the first and third stages.

The race leader expressed his surprise at winning the stage:

It’s a really big surprise to have won the time trial. When I took off on the course, my goal was to try and keep the red jersey. To win a time trial is a huge surprise but the course was very difficult and suited me. The fact that we were on normal bikes helped me.

Stage 5 result:

1. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 29:20

2. Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri) +0:16

3. Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) +0:24

4. Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) +0:27

5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:29

Stage 6  – Qurayyat to Mattrah Seafront, 157km

Britain’s Mark Cavendish broke his 2011 duck, taking his first win of the season in the final stage as Robert Gesink safely negotiated the 157km route to take overall victory by 1:13 over Edvald Boasson Hagen.

A five-man break established itself early on and held out until the last of eight 7km finishing circuits, when the peloton led by Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad team and the Farnese squad of Andrea Guardini (who won the final stage of last week’s Tour of Qatar) finally caught them.

HTC’s Hayden Roulston and Matt Goss (the winner of stage two) led out the sprint. Cavendish took over with 200 metres to go, kicking hard and comfortably finishing a length ahead of Katusha‘s Denis Galimzyanov, with Guardini third.

The red jersey of Gesink finished safely in the bunch, having avoided a crash with four kilometres to go. Boasson Hagen also made it home without incident, claiming both the runner-up spot and the points classification for the second year in a row. Guardini’s Farnese teammate Giovanni Visconti claimed the last step on the podium, having finished second to Gesink in the stage five individual time trial.

Mark Cavendish breaks his 2011 duck with victory in the sprint on the final stage (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

Gesink was delighted with his overall performance after a trying off-season in which he had lost his father, who sustained fatal injuries in a cycling accident in October:

I just came here to try and do my best during two days, the mountain stage and the time-trial and I won both of them. Today I secured the overall lead so it’s a great feeling. It’s a perfect start to my season. First race, first victory, I’m really happy. It’s a great feeling to win here in Oman.

And Cavendish was equally pleased to get his first win under his belt, as he continues his preparations for Milan-San Remo next month:

I had Hayden Roulston and Matt Goss looking after me in the finish, and they did a good job holding onto me and I did a good job holding onto them all the way through. Goss went at the end, I left a gap then went for it myself. It was difficult with the wind, but it all worked perfectly. It’s always good to get the first victory of the year, too, it didn’t work out the other day [when he lost by a few centimetres to Théo Bos on stage one] but now I’ve got it and I’m happy.

Only in its second year, the Tour of Oman has produced some excellent and varied racing, cramming sprints, a summit finish and a time trial into its six days. Théo Bos has added to his track pedigree and emerged as a genuine sprint contender on the road too. And Rabobank teammate Gesink will hope to repeat his fine form from this week in the Grand Tours, looking to improve on his impressive sixth-place finish at last year’s Tour de France.

Stage 6 result:

1. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 3:39:58

2. Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) same time

3. Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Neri) s/t

4. Matteo Pelucchi (Geox-TMC) s/t

5. Francesco Chicchi (Quick Step) s/t

General classification:

1. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 20:24:36

2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +1:13

3. Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri)+1:19

4. Michael Albasini (HTC-Highroad) +1:52

5. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) +2:04

Links:Tour of Oman official

Tour of Oman posts

Stages 1 & 2: Bos and Goss gather no moss

Stages 3 & 4: Bos and Gesink complete Rabobank hat-trick

Tour of Oman stages 3 & 4: Bos and Gesink complete Rabobank hat-trick

Stage 3  – Sur to Sur, 208km

Théo Bos won his second sprint finish in three days at the Tour of Oman at Sur. The 27-year old easily outpaced Leopard-Trek‘s Daniele Bennati and HTC-Highroad‘s Matt Goss in a bunch finish at the end of the race’s longest stage, covering 208km in more than five hours.

A disinterested peloton were happy to allow a five-man break to slip off the front almost immediately and establish a seven-minute advantage before the sprinters’ teams, with HTC-Highroad and Sky to the fore, went to work and completed a routine catch with around ten kilometres remaining.

The finish was long, straight and slightly downhill, but into a fairly stiff headwind. Led out by Rabobank teammate Graeme Brown, Bos opened up his sprint from a long way out but comfortably held off Bennati by more than a bike length, with the previous day’s winner and overall leader Goss third. It was the second day in a row in which Bennati had finished second, and the sixth time already in 2011 he has been in the top three. He has yet to win a stage.

Théo Bos takes a comfortable second win at the Tour of Oman (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

Bos was pleased to have held on for the win:

All the time I could sense someone in my wheel – I think Bennati – but he couldn’t come past me. Now I feel very strong in the sprint, even after such a long and hard day like today. 210 kilometres in the heat is pretty tough.

The former track sprinting and keirin world champion admitted he is still learning the art of road racing with his Rabobank squad:

I’ve got a good sprint, but I really need to improve the rest of it – my climbing, riding in crosswinds, everything. But I think I’m on the right team to help me to do that.

Goss was disappointed with third place:

The sprint didn’t really work out how we would have wanted today. There was a bit of chaos in the last few hundred metres, and most of us got taken off the edge of the road, and that gave Bennati and Bos about 10-15 metres on us straight away. Unfortunately we couldn’t shut it down.

The four bonus seconds Goss earned for finishing third ensured he held onto the red jersey by two seconds over Bennati, with Sky‘s Edvald Boasson Hagen third overall, ten seconds back.

Stage 3 result:

1. Théo Bos (Rabobank) 5:14:41

2. Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) same time

3. Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) s/t

4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t

5. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) s/t

Stage 4  – Sultan Qaboos University to Jabal al Akhdhar (Green Mountain), 157km

Climbing specialist Robert Gesink claimed an impressive solo triumph on the race’s mountain stage. In doing so, he not only took over the race lead from Matt Goss, but notched up Rabobank’s third win in four stages to add to Théo Bos’s two sprint victories. The 24-year old dedicated the victory to his father, who died last autumn.

With temperatures touching 30°C and a finish at the 1,235-metre summit of Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain), this was always going to be the toughest day of the Tour of Oman. Crosswinds in the final 40 kilometres only added to the difficulty for the peloton.

Seven riders launched a successful escape after 42 kilometres, quickly establishing a three-minute lead before Katusha and Rabobank took up the chase. As the pace intensified and the crosswinds started to buffet the main bunch it split into two, with all the key players in the front group. They caught the escapees with around 25 kilometres remaining, forming a 40-strong group.

The Jabal Al Akhdhar climb features a 599-metre altitude gain over 5.8km at an average gradient of 10.3%. The first two kilometres are relatively mild but the last two average a strenuous 13.5%.

The red jersey of overnight leader Matt Goss was dropped at the four-kilometre mark as the serious climbing began in earnest. An elite group of 11 battled it out for the stage win. Astana‘s Alexandre Vinokourov was the first to attack, but he was soon reeled back in.

Gesink and HTC’s Michael Albasini then came to the front, but with two kilometres to go Gesink accelerated away and no one was able to follow his pace. He powered onwards, finishing 47 seconds ahead of second-placed Edvald Boasson Hagen, who headed the straggling remains of the lead group over the line. Quick Step‘s Dries Devenyns was third, four seconds behind the big Norwegian.

Gesink now takes over the red jersey with a lead of 44 seconds over Boasson Hagen ahead of tomorrow’s crucial individual time trial, with Devenyns a further 13 behind.

Gesink claimed victory on the summit finish to seal Rabobank's third win in four stages (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

The Dutchman, whose ability in the high mountains propelled him to sixth place at both last year’s Tour de France and the 2009 Vuelta a España, dedicated the victory to his late father, who was seriously injured in a cycling accident last October and died two weeks later:

I did it for my dad. I tried not to think about him too much because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get to the finish the way I did, but it was just on the finish line, and just after, that I remembered him.

For the past month I’ve been doing everything on my training schedule and then a little extra as I wanted to show the world, my family – and my dad, of course – that I wanted to continue for him, so it’s a really nice feeling that it’s worked out.

Having targeted this stage, everything went according to plan for Gesink:

I wanted to attack two kilometers from the finish and I pulled it off. Then again, it wasn’t so easy. When you’ve got a hilly stage like that so early in the season and you’re not yet used to going so deep [in intensity], it’s not kind on the legs.

Tomorrow sees an 18.5km individual time trial at Al Jissah which is likely to decide the final overall classification. Gesink holds a 44-second advantage over Boasson Hagen, but the Norwegian is the stronger rider against the clock, and has the confidence of having won the ITT here in last year’s inaugural race.

Sunday’s final 157km stage starts at Qurayyat and will probably finish in a bunch sprint at Mattrah Seafront, with significant time gains unlikely.

Stage 4 result:

1. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 4:03:58

2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:47

3. Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) +0:51

4. Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri) +0:53

5. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Cervélo) +0:53

General classification:

1. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 16:15:18

2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:44

3. Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) +0:57

4. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Cervélo) +1:03

5. Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri) +1:03

Links: Tour of Oman official

Tour of Oman posts

Stages 1 & 2: Bos and Goss gather no moss

Tour of Oman stages 1 & 2: Bos and Goss gather no moss

Stage 1  – as Sawadi to Al Seeb, 158km

Rabobank‘s Théo Bos edged out Mark Cavendish in a bunch sprint to claim stage one and the red leader’s jersey at the Tour of Oman, while defending champion Fabian Cancellara finished down in 42nd, ten seconds back.

This race may only be in its second year, but an interesting mix of flat, mountainous and time trial stages in the six-day race has attracted a quality field. In addition to several of the top sprinters, the field includes both current world champions – Thor Hushovd and Cancellara – as well as prominent grand tour racers such as Alexandre Vinokourov and Robert Gesink.

A three-man break slipped away after 30 kilometres, establishing a lead of nearly five minutes before being caught by the peloton inside the final ten kilometres, with Astana and then Rabobank driving at the front. They were soon joined by the white jerseys of HTC-Highroad, working for Cavendish, with Skil-Shimano, Sky and Leopard-Trek looking to get their sprinters Roger Kluge, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Daniele Bennati into position.

In the final 150 metres, Bos accelerated hard and leapt clear of the pack. Cavendish, further back, had to weave his way through the crowd and, although he closed rapidly on the Dutchman, he was still five or six centimetres short at the line. Kluge was a distant third.

Theo Bos just holds off Mark Cavendish to win stage one (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

Cavendish later explained that a misplaced sign and a stray spectator had disrupted his sprint:

The 3km to go sign was where the 2km sign should have been and with about what was really a kilometre to go I was about 30 guys back. I shouted to Matt Goss and got across and he went with about 600 metres to go. He went up the side of the bunch on the right, which was probably the hardest way because that was where the wind was coming from.

I felt good, but the sprinters spread out, then I had to come past a spectator who was standing in the road about 200 metres from the finish. If I’d been able to start a bit earlier, maybe I’d have got it: But there was this guy there in the road, so I couldn’t start my sprint until after that.

I threw my bike at the line but I just couldn’t get to him [Bos]. If I’d been able to start my sprint earlier, then maybe I could have won or maybe I would have blown. Who knows?

Nonetheless, despite missing out on his first win of 2011, Cavendish will no doubt have been pleased to rediscover the zip in his legs.

Bos, a former track world champion, whose brother Jan was a two-time Olympic silver medalist in speed skating, was ecstatic with his win.

It’s great. The best sprinters in the world are here, and it’s me who’s won. It’s fantastic.

Stage 1 result:

1. Théo Bos (Rabobank) 3:38:19

2. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) same time

3. Roger Kluge (Skil-Shimano) s/t

4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t

5. Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) s/t

Stage 2  – The Wave, Muscat to Al Wutayya, 139km

HTC-Highroad’s Matt Goss continued his outstanding early season form, beating Daniele Bennati and Edvald Boasson Hagen at the finish in Al Wutayya to claim his sixth win of 2011.

Matt Goss claims his sixth win of 2011 on stage two (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

The day’s five-man breakaway established a lead of 3:40 early on, but it was on the uncategorised but steep climb halfway through the stage where the real action started to unfold. The chasing peloton fractured into several smaller groups, with most of the sprinters among those who became detached from the front. The break was swept up on the descent to form a lead group of around 30 riders, which eventually swelled to about 70 in number.

Patrik Sinkewitz (Farnese Vini-Neri) and Andriy Grivko (Astana) attempted to slip away late on, establishing a ten-second lead with three kilometres to go, but they were easily swept up by the chasing pack well before the finish. In the final sprint, Goss comfortably held off Bennati, with Boasson Hagen finishing third.

The remaining 50-odd riders, including stage one winner Théo Bos, finished 10:34 later. As a result, Goss, Bennati and Boasson Hagen are the new top three in the general classification.

Goss admitted the uphill finish had been a tricky one:

The last kilometre was quite tough there, slightly uphill and a little bit harder than I was expecting, but I managed to hold on fine. It suited me well, having to accelerate out of the last corner.

We had five guys in the front group, they looked after me until the last kilometre, then [Hayden] Roulston did a turn on the front to keep the speed high and I sat in a little way further behind and waited for my moment.

It’s great for the team, we came here wanting to get at least a stage win, now we can concentrate on seeing what we can do for the overall.

Stage three, which starts and ends in Sur, is the longest of the race at 208km. It features a fast downhill finish which will suit the sprinters. As well as protecting the red jersey, Goss will no doubt be looking to set up Mark Cavendish for his maiden win of 2011, having narrowly missed out on stage one.

Stage 2 result:

1. Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) 3:18:17

2. Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) same time

3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t

4. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t

5. Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) s/t

General classification:

1. Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) 6:56:36

2. Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) +0:04

3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:06

4. Pieter Serry (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercartor) +0:07

5. Tanel Kangert (Astana) +0:09

Links: Tour of Oman official

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