Kristoff Wins Stage 2 of Tour of Oman 2014
(Located in the USA? View Tour of Oman video highlights in our video player). The 142 riders of the Tour of Oman peloton didn’t need much transportation in order to reach the start zone of stage 2 located at the Oman Parliament building in Al Bustan, just a few kilometers away from the Barr Al Jissah Resort where they had all recovered during the night.
The morning was dominated by sad moods as the riders paid their respects to colleague Kristof Goddaert, who tragically died in Antwerp yesterday when he crashed on a train crossing and was hit by a bus that was unable to avoid hitting the 27-year-old rider. As a tribute to the IAM rider, a moment of silence was held just before the start of today's stage. Goddaert finished 34th overall in the Tour of Qatar earlier this month and had returned to Belgium following the race.
Unlike yesterday, the sky was rather cloudy, making the air temperature a lot cooler. But as soon as the riders took off to contest the stage, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and remained in light all along the 140.5 kilometer stage taking the riders to Quriyat. After 4.5 kilometers, three men managed to break away from the pack. The riders were Van Hecke, wearing the Most Aggressive rider’s Jersey, Colonna and Ilesic. The front trio rapidly saw their advantage expand, as it reached 2 minutes when Team IAM's Hinault took off on a counter-attack at kilometer 9. But the Frenchman’s solo efforts would be vain as he failed to merge with the leaders. When he was eventually caught by the peloton at kilometer 43.5, the leading three could enjoy a maximum advantage of 7 minutes and 25 seconds.
The first intermediate sprint of the day (kilometer 62) was won by Van Hecke in front of Colonna and Ilesic, while the pack remained 5 minutes adrift. With Team Lotto–Belisol, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Tinkoff–Saxo leading the chase, the gap was reduced rapidly. Ilesic was the first of the trio's riders to struggle at the front and was assimilated by the main peloton at kilometer 117. The second bonus sprint (kilometer 121.5) was again won by Van Hecke, thereby extending his lead in the Most Aggressive Rider classification ahead of Colonna. The pack led by Lotto-Belisol's Gallopin, moved closer, 35 seconds behind.
The two escapees were finally caught with just under 10 kilometers to go. The pack remained bunched all the way to the final straight in Quriyat. As most cycling analysts had expected, today's stage 2 was to be decided in a bunch sprint across the finish line. Finishing 9th in yesterday’s stage 1, Kristoff today showed perfect strength and tactics in the sprint. The 26-year-old Norwegian powered to the line, beating Howard and Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Boonen, to take the 13th victory of his professional career.
"In the final I started a little bit early with five hundred meters to go," Kristoff explained to Roadcycling.com after being celebrated on the podium. "After a rider passed me, I took his wheel and with two hundred meters I accelerated again. I just concentrated on myself and my feelings and I gave my all for a victory."
"I am very happy with this victory today," an enthusiastic Kristoff continued. "In my first race in Qatar I missed something. I went there ready after a good winter preparation, but I had some bad luck and several crashes. Yesterday for the first time I felt well and today I was in great shape for the entire stage. This victory gives me more motivation for the 2014 season. I will try to progress day by day to be one hundred percent ready for the classics season."
Yesterday's stage winner Greipel failed to position himself optimally in the final sprint and therefore lost the red leader's jersey that was taken by Howard. The Australian who won a stage of the 2010 Tour of Oman now leads the 2014 edition of the race by two seconds to Kristoff and Greipel. Howard from Geelong also leads the points classification and the best young rider standings while Preben Van Hecke remains the most aggressive rider of the race.