Greipel Wins Stage 3 and Reclaims Overall Tour of Oman Lead
While cycling fans and analysts were expecting the main general classification favorites to fight for the stage victory and general classification lead on the final tough climbs of the day, stage 3 of the Tour of Oman ended in a bunched sprint at Al Bustan. And when it comes to sprinting, Greipel is the man to beat. Wearing his white National Champion kit Greipel powered to his second stage win ahead of Sagan and Bouhanni. The Lotto–Belisol rider reclaims the overall leader’s red jersey, which he had lost in yesterday's stage (Located in the USA?: View Tour of Oman video highlights in our video player).
Bank Muscat welcomed the 142 riders still remaining in the 2014 Tour of Oman peloton for the start of stage 3 earlier this morning. Under a bright sun, the pack took off just before noon for a 145 kilometer ride all the way to Al Bustan. As soon as kilometer 4, a four-rider group escaped from the main peloton. The riders were Ista (IAM), Jelle Wallays (TSV), Boem (BAR) and Martijn Maaskant (UHC). Their lead grew rapidly to reach a maximum of 3 minutes and 30 seconds at kilometer 33. Team Cannondale Pro Cycling, Greenedge, Astana and BMC Racing Team took command of the pack and the chase started.
At the first intermediate sprint of the day (km 74), Boem managed to beat Ista and Wallays while the pack remained 2 minutes behind the breakaway hopefuls. The front four were held within a safe distance from the peloton and with 25 kilometers to go they could enjoy only a 1 minute advantage. Time then came for the first climb of the day, the extremely demanding, yet short, Al Hamriya climb. Wallays attacked and managed to reach the top in solo fashion with a 10 seconds lead over Boem, 15 seconds over Ista and 1 minute and 5 seconds over the chasing main peloton.
The first man to struggle in the breakaway group was Maaskant who was eventually caught by the greedy wolves at kilometer 123. Meanwhile the front three riders regrouped and continued their efforts in the lead. At the second bonus sprint (kilometer 134.5), claimed by Boem ahead of Wallays and Ista, the pack was only 22 seconds behind. The escape group was neutralized at kilometer 135.
The peloton then took on the second climb of the stage. While 30 riders were dropped on Al Jissah, all the main stars remained at the front of the pack. Team Sky's Dario Cataldo reached the top in the lead ahead of his teammate and Tour de France champion Christopher Froome and Cannondale's Peter Sagan.
Following the top, Froome pulled away, eventually taking with him Sagan, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Zdenek Stybar who had caught up on the descent. The leading four, struggling against the strong head wind were finally caught just before the final kilometer. 83 riders remained together for the final sprint which would decide the outcome of the stage. Winner of stage 1, Greipel once again showed he is currently the fastest rider, when he beat Sagan and Bouhanni in the sprint to the line.
Commenting on his stage victory Greipel told RoadCycling.com "On paper it was a hard final today, but the headwind played in my favor. It was supposed to be a final for Gallopin, Roelandts and Van den Broeck, but I could manage to stay in the front of the group and the team motivated me as well. The last 4 kilometers I was riding at the end of the bunch, but Jürgen Roelandts and Lars Bak brought me back to the front. With 700 meters to go I was back at the head of the bunch and Ligthart and Roelandts gave me the perfect lead-out."
Thanks to his second stage win Greipel took back the red leader's jersey he lost to Leigh Howard in yesterday's stage. Greipel now leads the general classification by 8 seconds to GreenEdge's Leigh Howard. Yesterday's stage winner Alexander Kristoff of Norway is 10 seconds behind. Preben Van Hecke remains the most aggressive rider of this year's Tour of Oman.