MUSCAT: Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) won stage 2 of the Tour of Oman, letting out a long scream in celebration after making sure he was part of the series of attacks on the hilly finale of the 167km stage to Al Bustan. The Australian had not won a race since the 2016 Vuelta a Burgos but rode the finale perfectly and then dominated the sprint, giving Katusha-Alpecin its first win of 2018. He responded to an aggressive Astana team on the final Al Bustan climb before winning the sprint ahead of the Belgian. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) finished third.
Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) led home the peloton, 38 seconds back on the select group of 16 riders that emerged in the rollercoaster finale. Thanks to the time bonuses, Haas is the new leader of the Tour of Oman and pulled on the red leader’s jersey. He leads Van Avermaet by four seconds, with Lutsenko third at six seconds. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is fifth at 10 seconds after finishing in the front group with Haas.
“I just wanted to give myself a nice Valentine’s present today,” Haas told Cycling News of his loud victory celebrations.
“I’ve been trying to win a bike race, a real bike race for a while, so for me to finish it off, means a huge reaction. I’ve been saying to everyone that they’ll know it when I won because they’ll hear it. I woke up this morning and had a really good feeling about today, my legs felt fantastic. I love coming to Oman. It’s a fantastic race and for me it’s one of the best ways to transition from Australia back to Europe.”
A hard finale
The stage started at the Sultan Qaboos University and travelled through the hills behind the capital Muscat. The two steep climbs in the finale made it just like an Ardennes Classics.
The early break of the day formed after eight kilometres, with Loic Chetout (Cofidis), Markel Irizar (Trek-Segafredo), Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Danny Pate (Rally Cycling) chasing the glory.
They opened a gap of four minutes after 25km but the peloton then gradually brought it down to two as a game of cat and mouse played out. Chetout picked up most of the climber’s points and so took the bronze-coloured jersey at the finish.
The break led by just 45 seconds with 10km to go and Irizar took off alone in search of glory as the final climb of the stage loomed. He was soon swept up as a front group of 50 riders formed to fight for the stage victory and the upper echelons of the overall classification.
The Astana trio of Omar Fraile, Miguel Angel Lopez and Lutsenko led over the top of the last Al Jissah climb, with more attacks coming on the fast run-in to the finish.
Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) attacked with four kilometres to go, reducing the group to 16 riders but he was pulled back in time for the finish. Alberto Bettiol tried to set up his new BMC team leader Van Avermaet but then Haas hit out in the sprint and won it with confidence.
Thursday’s stage 3 covers 179.5km between the German University of Technology and Wadi Dayqah Dam in the southern hills. It is another rolling stage, with a gradual climb in the finale and another descent to the finish.