The Queen stage of the Tour of Oman saw the race leader, Ben Hermans (BMC Racing) extend his overall lead by being the first to reach the summit of Green Mountain. Fabio Aru (Astana) finished in 2nd place while Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi) held on for 3rd.
It was the stage all the GC contenders were waiting for, the 152km stage to the top of Green Mountain. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka was no different as we were hoping to take the stage and overall race lead with our young Eritrean climber, Merhawi Kudus. Inevitably the stage did culminate with the showdown on Green Mountain but there was a fair bit of drama out on the road in the early part of the stage.
Crosswinds ripped the race apart in the first hour with a number of GC riders scrambling to regain contact with the front of the race. Fortunatley for some, the wind subsided and it all came back together. As 5 riders then slipped away to form the break of the day, a bizarre situation saw a mass pile up at the head of the peloton as the race passed over a slippery wet patch of road. There didn’t seem to be anyone too badly injured and the chase resumed to bring back the escapees.
The catch was made just before the start of the 5.7km climb up Green Mountain and our African Team was now able to put our plan into action. First to make a move was our Australian climber Lachlan Morton as he jumped up the road and quickly got a gap on the favourites. The climb was relentless though and Morton was reeled in by 8 others, including Kudus. The favourites then traded blows, one for one and Kudus was looking exceptionally good. Just before the 1km to go marker Kudus had his final dig. Hermans, Aru and Costa gave chase and were able to reel Kudus in and then go over him in the final 500m.
Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) was also just able to pip Kudus on the line but 5th place for our Eritrean and just 27″ behind Hermans, meant he kept his lead in the young rider competition and retained 4th overall. Morton and Nathan Haas both put in incredibly rides on Green Mountain too, finishing 7th and 9th respectively. The solid team effort also saw our African Team consolidate our lead in the overall team classification.
Merhawi Kudus -Rider
Today was the main key stage and it was very hard. There was headwind and crosswind so the whole the day was stress in the bunch. When we hit the climb I was a little bit nervous but I think I did a great job in the end, the plan we had today was also very good and just gave it my best.
JP Heynderickx – Sport Director
Today was the Queen stage and it was completely nervous all day. Crosswind, headwind and then crosswind again meant the guys had to be attentive all day. It was all together at the start of the last climb and we asked Lachlan to open the attacks to try and get rid of the teammates of Hermans and Aru. Then Merhawi could attack in the last kilometers which he did but they were still able to counter attack. He is still in the white jersey and we also lead the team classification which is good, we were really looking to take the win today but we have one more chance tomorrow.