Hermans wins on Green Mountain on stage 5

Ben Hermans (BMC) won the battle up Green Mountain on stage 5 of the Tour of Oman, finishing ahead of Fabio Aru (Astana) and Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi) to all but seal the overall victory in the race.
The Belgian, who had taken the red leader’s jersey with his punchy victory on stage 2, ground his way up the 5.7 km, 10 per cent climb to finish ahead of the more distinguished climbers at the summit. Aru finished three seconds back, and Costa 11 seconds, with most of the rest of the riders over half a minute down. Romain Bardet, who was second on Green Mountain last year, finished 44 seconds down in what was the first big test of his campaign.
Asked if it was the biggest victory of his career, Hermans said: “Against the riders that I faced here today, yes I think so.
It was really hard. Fabio Aru was just behind me at 10 or 15 metres so it was really fast right until the line. Merhawi Kudus attacked and he was just 10 seconds in front of me but I still had a good effort in my legs. I was afraid that the others might come back but in the end it was ok.”
Hermans’ victory puts him in a comfortable position going into Sunday’s final stage, which is expected to end in a mass sprint. The 30-year-old has a 22-second buffer on GC over Costa, with Aru third at 35 seconds. It would be the first overall stage race win of his nine-year career.
“Normally, it is just a mechanical problem that could kill me tomorrow, so it’s a nice feeling to be in this position,” he added.
How it unfolded
A fast start and heavy winds saw echelons forming and the peloton splitting almost from the get-go.
After 22 kilometres everything came back together but only temporarily, as a five-man group was able to establish itself and get away. Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport), Daniel Diaz (Delko Marseille Provence KTM), Olivier Pardini (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect), Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) made the break and built up a large gap.
There were crashes along the way. Christian hit the deck but was able to make it back to the lead group, and there was a large crash in the peloton itself when a stream overflowed across the road. There were apparently no injuries but it slowed things down enough to send the gap up to eight and a half minutes.
That was the highest the gap went, as the Green Mountain finale loomed, and the favourites weren’t about to let their chance slip away. The gap kept on decreasing, and heavy crosswinds entered the picture.
With 10 km to go, and the 5.7 km, 10 per cent climb up the 1,235m Green Mountain coming ever closer, the gap was down to 2:50. BMC and Astana were amongst those putting pressure on from behind.
Things fell apart as the climb began, and the field was only a minute behind the three remaining in the lead group. No sooner had they been caught than the attacks started, with Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data) the first to get away, but unsuccessfully. Riders were scattered along the road as the high pace took its toll.