INTERMARCHÉ
WANTY GOBERT

Tour of Oman

Jan Hirt stage winner & GC leader : « A perfect day »


One day after the fantastic victory in the Clasica de Almeria, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert repeated its performance in the queen stage of the Tour of Oman (2.Pro, 10-15/02) this Monday. After a collective demonstration, Czech climber Jan Hirt was the best on top of the Jabal Al Akhdar (6km at 10%) and managed to reverse the order in the general classification by distancing race leader Masnada. 

Kévin Van Melsen and Julius Johansen immediately showed the intention of the team directed by Valerio Piva by controlling the gap to the early breakaway of seven riders. Even though there were no obstacles on the way towards the final climb, the battle started 50 before the finish with crosswinds. The riders of the Belgian World Team were attentive and were not surprised by the acceleration in the peloton, which closed the gap to the early breakaway.

But the peace returned and the split in the peloton was made undone with 30 kilometer to go. The teammates of Jan Hirt took command of the bunch at the foot of the Jabal Al Akhdar. Tom Devriendt set the example in the beginning of the climb for neopro Hugo Page, who determined the rhythm the next 3 kilometer. With only fifteen riders remaining in the first group, Rein Taaramäe, the ninth rider in the provisional classification, then sacrificed for Hirt who attacked two kilometer before the top. 

The Czech climber reached the finish solo, 39 seconds ahead of the first chaser and almost 2 minutes ahead of Masnada. In this way, Hirt became the new owner of the leader’s jersey in the Tour of Oman with one day to go and with an advantage of exactly one minute. Taaramäe finished sixth in the stage and is now eighth in the provisional general classification.

On Tuesday, the final stage connects Al Mouj Muscat and Matrah Cornice in 132 kilometer. After a first race half without any difficulties, the peloton has to cover two short climbs of around 1 kilometer before reaching the three local laps around the finish.

« From the beginning of this stage race I felt that I was one of the strongest climbers, so that’s why the stage win was our goal today. The whole team was very focused and motivated too succeed. No words can repay their sacrifices, they all contributed to make this victory possible. Without support of other teams, Kévin Van Melsen worked hard behind the early breakaway. The others protected me in the crosswinds and then set a high pace on the final climb to create my dream scenario. It was a perfect day. The leader’s jersey was the cherry on the cake, because I didn’t really expect to close the 1 minute gap with Masnada on this 6 kilometer climb. I’m feeling confident ahead of the final stage, surrounded by a strong team. »

Photo credits: ASO / Oman Cycling Association / Pauline Ballet

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