Greg van Avermaet (BMC) took the honours in stage three of the Tour of Oman after a gruelling 179.5km that finished at the Wadi Dayqah dam.
The Belgian crossed the line 3 seconds ahead of Rui Costa (UAE) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana).
Merhawi Kudus finished 17 seconds behind in a group that included Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and slipped to 3rd position in the white jersey after Thursday’s result.
Van Avermaet holds onto the race leaders jersey by 11 seconds ahead of Alexey Lutsenko (Astana).
The early racing was much of the same as previous stages with Loic Chetout (Cofidis) being the aggressor and among the break, snapping up valuable intermediate sprint points.
The initial 4-man breakaway became 3 on the way up the climb of Quriyat and a lead of around just under 2 minutes with under 40km to go.
Following Nathan Haas’ win in stage two Katusha drove hard on the front of the peleton to bring the break back at around with around 20km to go.
The tough final climb up to Wadi Dayqah dam proved decisive as a number of teams clamoured for control before BMC put van Avermaet into position to take the stage victory.
Jean-Pierre Heynderickx – Sporting Director
“Today was a quite a difficult day, always up and down. Our goal was to look after Merhawi for the final with the hope of not losing any time to some of our key rivals. The final was difficult to control but the team did well to bring Merhawi into a good position and he was part of the front group going into the last kilometers. The last climb was not really suited to a small climber like Merhawi, it was for the puncheurs so it was no surprise the Olympic champion took the stage. Merhawi limited his losses and still has everything to fight for on the next two stages.”