Van Avermaet claims maiden victory

Belgian takes overall lead from Haas

MUSCAT: The eighth try was the good one for Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team)! After many participations on the Tour of Oman and a place of second on Wednesday, the Olympic champion finally added a victory in the Sultanate to his stellar collection of wins.
The Belgian star made the most of a hilly finish on the way to the Wadi Dayqah Dam to dominate Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Pro Team). With his first win in 2018, he also takes the red leader’s jersey from Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin).
“It was a hard finish. I knew it from 2013 when I was second here and I just tried to do the same,” Van Avermaet told after the stage. “I had better legs, I think, because the moment where I wanted to go I was able to do it and then it was about trying to get to the finish as fast as possible and hoping that nobody could follow. That’s what happened so it was a good finish for me and it was a really nice win on this kind of finish.”
Loic Chetout (Cofidis, Solutions credits) was determined to shine his golden jersey at the front of the race and accumulate points in the most aggressive rider classification. The Frenchman attacked from the gun and quickly got away with Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Wouter Wippert (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) and Nicholas Schultz (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA). The 4 man breakaway enjoyed a three minute lead after 11km but the Katusha-led peloton quickly reacted to control the gap.
Lutsenko third again
The lead never got higher than 4’30” but Chetout managed to snatch 12 points before getting back to the peloton to remain leader of the most aggressive rider classification. Meurisse and Schultz were the last riders at the front with a lead down to 50” with 27km to go. They eventually got reeled in 21km away from the finish line.
Astana Pro Team set a hard pace in the final climb of the day. The pack was down to 50 riders at the summit (8.5km to go) as the Asian team was setting the place for Alexey Lutsenko. But the Kazakh talent finished once again third while Van Avermaet was flying to victory, opening a 3” gap on the line over Rui Costa and Lutsenko. Nathan Haas finished 5th with a delay of 7”.
For the second day running, Astana tried to put the other teams on the ropes by stringing out the peloton on two occasions, notably as they approached the final rise.
“They have the strongest team uphill I think,” said Van Avermaet. “I expected that they would try to make it hard for Lutsenko on a finish like this but I think that we came at the right moment just before the descent with 3km to go. We took the lead of the peloton and put me in perfect position. It was nice for me that I could finish off their work.”
Van Avermaet’s sprint allowed him to take three seconds on the next best rider, Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), and the bonus seconds for the stage win were enough to take the red jersey from Haas. He now leads the overall classification by 11 seconds over Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) but some strong climbers lie just over 30 seconds down, and Van Avermaet maintains that the pivotal Green Mountain stage will be a step too far for him.
“It’s a nice extra I think. I not expecting that I’m going to win the Tour of Oman here but I’m here now in the leader’s jersey. Tomorrow I’m going to defend it but I think that Green Mountain will be for the climbers so they can take it over again,” Van Avermaet explained.
“On a climb like this, I’m going to lose two minutes to the best climbers so I probably don’t have enough advantage.”
Before the peloton tackles Green Mountain on Saturday, they face a hilly ride around Muscat to the Ministry of Tourism. The 117.5km stage will contain three ascents of the challenging Al Jabal Street climb, which they’ve already ridden twice during this year’s Tour of Oman. It is expected to be a fast and furious stage and it could be another chance for Van Avermaet to notch up a victory before he returns to Europe.
“Tomorrow is a hard day, and it will be hard to control,” explained Van Avermaet. “But I think that we have a strong team and three times over this climb will be pretty hard but I think that on this finish I was already two times second and third so I’m able to get over it and maybe I will try to go for another stage win.”

Stage three results

1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 4hr 36min 4sec, 2. Rui Costa (POR/Emirates) at 3sec, 3. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ/Astana) same time, 4. Gorka Insausti (ESP/Bahrain-Merida) s.t., 5. Nathan Haas (AUS/Katusha) 7, 6. Magnus Nielsen (DEN/Astana) s.t., 7. Odd Eiking (NOR/Wanty) 9, 8. Dries Devenyns (BEL/Quick-Step) s.t., 9. Miguel Moreno (COL/Astana) s.t., 10. Jesus Herrada (ESP/Cofidis) s.t.

Overall standings

1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 12hr 56min 44sec, 2. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ/Astana) at 11sec, 3. Nathan Haas (AUS/Katusha) 13, 4. Gorka Insausti (ESP/Bahrain-Merida) 19, 5. Dries Devenyns (BEL/Quick-Step) 25, 6. Odd Eiking (NOR/Wanty) at s.t., 7. Miguel Moreno (COL/Astana) at s.t., 8. Jesus Lopez (ESP/Cofidis) at s.t., 9. Daniel Garcia (ESP/Cofidis) at s.t., 10. Merhawi Ghebremedhin (ERI/Dimension Data) at 33sec.