Sagan Strikes Back, Wins Stage 4 of Tour of Oman 2014
Part of a large group, which included the best riders of the Tour of Oman peloton, Sagan managed to hang on to the front group as the riders struggled to overcome the challenges of the Bousher Alamrat climb four times. The Slovakian was then part of a decisive move in the last descent together with Team Astana's Vincenzo Nibali and Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Rigoberto Uran. Managing to stay clear of the hungry main peloton, Sagan catapulted himself to his first success in this year's Tour of Oman when he beat Uran and Nibali in a sprint to the line. Sagan also took the overall race lead from previous leader André Greipel of Germany and Lotto-Belisol.
"I haven't felt the pressure to win this season, but of course I like to be first," Sagan told RoadCycling.com after being celebrated on the podium. "I could feel my form getting better, and getting a win was only a matter of time. Yesterday, I tried winning twice. I attacked in the finale and sprinted on the finish line. André Greipel has been a fast competitor so far, but for me this was a signal that it was my moment to shine."
Wadi Al Abiyad welcomed the riders of Tour of Oman in style with a beautiful scenery that set the scene for what promised to be a very eventful stage. The 142 riders of the Tour of Oman took off at 11:28 for a 173 kilometer stage 4, which would take the riders all the way to the Ministry of Housing with an extremely demanding last part that would take the pack up the Bousher Alamrat climb four times.
The hostilities started early when, following a very fast start, Agnoli, Westra and Fischer were the first to break away at kilometer 9, but the peloton never let the riders built a lasting lead, so they were caught at kilometer 15. Moments later four other riders managed to take off. Team Astana's Huffman, Yearoslav Popovych of Trek Factory Racing, Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing Team, and Jelle Wallays of Top Sport Vlaanderen. Their lead expanded rapidly and at the first intermediate sprint (kilometer 37), which was won by Wallays ahead of Van Avermaet and Popovych, the leading four had a 7 minute and 25 seconds advantage over the main pack. That gap reached a maximum of 8 minutes at kilometer 51.
The pack, led by Lotto-Belisol, Tinkoff-Saxo, Team BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-QuickStep then started chasing and just before taking on the first of four climbs up Bousher Alamrat, the leaders saw their advantage drop to 5 minutes and 50 seconds. At the top of the first climb, which Wallays reached first ahead of Van Avermaet and Popovych, the group of favorites remained 3 minutes and 50 seconds ahead. Meanwhile heavy strongmen race leader André Greipel and best young rider Leigh Howard were struggling behind.
The second climb also featured a sprint (kilometer 131) that was again won by Wallays ahead of Van Avermaet and Huffman while the pack by then was only 2 minutes and 25 seconds behind. Eventually Popovych, Huffman and Wallays were caught at the beginning of the third climb. Greg Van Avermaet, however, carried on alone. The Belgian made it first to the top with an 18 second lead over Sergio Henao (Team Sky Pro Cycling) and 32 seconds over the pack led by Dominik Nerz (BMC Racing Team). The front man was finally caught at kilometer 159 by a group of around 60 riders.
All the general classification hopefuls were present at the front as the riders hit the final climb. Despite many attempts they remained bunched and Team Sky Pro Cycling's Tour de France champion Christopher Froome was the rider first to reach the top ahead of Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Uran.
Like on the previous day, defending champion Froome powered away taking former teammate Uran with him. But he was soon to be caught. On the long descent, three other riders gave it a go with less than ten kilometres to go: Nibali, Sagan, and Uran. A fine move that would pay off as they enjoyed an 18 second lead with 5 kilometers to go. That advantage dropped down to 6 seconds at the final kilometer mark, but it would be good enough to contest the stage victory. The fastest of the three was, as expected, Sagan. He beat Uran and Nibali to the line, thereby claiming his fourth success in the history of the Tour of Oman.
"This morning I expected an animated finale," Sagan explained. "This was a race where many riders could have won, and I knew I had to wait to see how the competition developed. At the bottom of the final climb the reduced peloton started to set up the pace. When Chris Froome and Uran attacked, I thought it was too early for me to move. However, during the last descent I took advantage of the route without pedalling. When Nibali and Uran caught me I thought it was a good idea to work together and try to get to the finish. It was a hard stage, but it made this win even more special. I am happy for myself and for my teammates who always help me in the best way possible."
Thanks to his stage victory, Sagan conquers the overall leader’s red jersey and now has a 10 second advantage over Uran and 14 second advantage over Nibali. The Cannondale rider also becomes the best young rider while Greipel, who crossed the finish line in 103rd position, 21 minutes and 10 seconds adrift, keeps command of the points’ classification. Present in three of four breakaways since the start of the event, Jelle Wallays captured the polka-dot jersey for being the most aggressive rider in the Tour of Oman.