Greipel Wins Stage 6 of Tour of Oman; Froome Takes Overall Victory
The Brit, who laid the foundation for his overall victory in yesterday's decisive stage to Green Mountain, defended his general classification lead in today's stage 6 when he finished the race with the main peloton, which decided the outcome of the stage in a bunch sprint that was won by German national champion André Greipel of Team Lotto-Belisol.
As the 141 riders gathered for the start of the final stage of this year's Tour of Oman, race leader Chris Froome had a comfortable 26 second lead to his closest rival Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC Racing. Most fans and analysts expected the 26 second gap to be sufficient for Froome to secure his second Tour of Oman title. There was, however, still one more stage to complete first. 146.5 kilometers from As Sifah to the Matrah Corniche - a route which included potential danger on the final circuit of the stage.
The hostilities started early and took place at high speeds. The rather mountainous first part of the stage was characterized by numerous attacks, none of which resulted in a sustainable advantage. Eventually a quintet managed to break away from the main peloton after 17 kilometers of aggressive riding. The group featured Astana's Francesco Gavazzi, Team BMC Racing's Greg Van Avermaet, Niki Terpstra of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Lotto-Belisol's Pim Ligthart and Nicolas Roche of Team Tinkoff-Saxo.
Led by Ligthart, the five front men reached the top of the first climb of the day (Al Jissah, kilometer 29) with a 1 minute and 35 second advantage over the main pack. After the lead stretched to 2 minutes at kilometer 37, the gap was slowly reduced as the Tour of Oman peloton approached the first intermediate sprint. When four of the five men were caught, Terpstra carried on alone and claimed the intermediate sprint with a 10 second lead over the pack led by Top Sport Vlaanderen's Van Hecke and Kuchynski of Team Katusha.
Nine men counter attacked around the 60 kilometer mark, joining forces with Terpstra and expanding their lead over the main peloton on the climb up Bousher Alamrat. In this front group were the likes of Agnoli (AST), Burghardt (BMC), Boaro (TCS) and Albasini (OGE). But after enjoying a 2 minute advantage at km 66, the pack moved closer and closer. Bazzana (UHC) made it first to the top ahead of Van Emden (BEL) and Minard (ALM) while the pack was only 40” adrift.
Just after the descent, the rhythm wasn’t going to slow down as Nibali (AST), Cancellara (TFR) and Kreuziger (TCS) were on the attack. Eventually the pack bunched up together with only Bazzana carrying on in the lead at kilometer 88. The Italian was soon caught by two other riders: Denmark's Christopher Juul-Jensen and GreenEdge's Michael Hepburn who won the time trial in last week's Tour of Qatar. As the main peloton reduced its pace, the front trio pulled away. At kilometer 99, they had a 1 minute and 30 second advantage over the pack led by Greipel's Team Lotto-Belisol and Team Sky.
As they entered the final circuit on the Matrah Corniche, that gap had been reduced to just 45 seconds. At the second intermediate bonus sprint (1st passage of the finish line after kilometer 129.5), won by Alessandro Bazzana in front of Hepburn and Juul-Jensen, the pack remained 26 seconds behind.
The front trio managed to hang on to the lead all the way to the final kilometer. Time had then come for a bunch sprint. Like in stage 1 and 3, Greipel powered to victory. The German champion thereby claimed his third win of this year's Tour of Oman, beating Team FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni, who won on the Corniche last year, and Team NetApp-Endura's Sam Bennett to the line.
Finishing in the main peloton group Froome wins the Tour of Oman for the second consecutive year. The reigning Tour de France champion who stunned spectators on the mountain top finish at Jabal Al Akhdhar claimed the overall race victory with a 26 second lead over Van Garderen and 31 seconds over Rigoberto Uran. A great way to start the year for the Team Sky rider who is hoping to defend his crown in the Grande Boucle come July.
Winner of 3 stages Greipel finishes at the top of the points classification and therefore wins the green jersey, while Romain Bardet, 13th overall, claimed the white jersey for being the best young rider. Continuously active during the 6 days of the race, Preben Van Hecke (TSV) wins the most aggressive rider classification.