Bahrain-Merida moved themselves into prime position in the general classification ahead of the Tour of Oman's queen stage to Green Mountain following an aggressive finale on stage 4 that left the team with three riders in the top 15.
Gorka Izagirre is the team's best-placed rider in fourth place and the first of the true general classification contenders. The Spaniard nudged himself a little closer to the Tour of Oman's red jersey after being set up by Vincenzo Nibali on the final ascent of Al Jabal Street on stage 4 to the Ministry of Tourism. Nibali later helped to deliver Giovanni Visconti into second place on the day's stage.
"We were trying to get the sprint seconds on the top of the climb so I was working for Izagirre and he won the sprint and took the bonus seconds," Nibali told Cyclingnews. "In the end, I worked for Visconti but the main goal is tomorrow's stage. There was nothing more that we could do today, but tomorrow will be different."
Bahrain-Merida team manager Gorazd Štangelj was pretty happy with how the stage turned out for his team. They went into the stage knowing that little would change in the general standings and set out to make it through in the best position possible going into Saturday's mountain test.
"Three bonus seconds are always welcome," Štangelj told Cyclingnews. "Today the stage was quite hard but not hard enough to make some differences in the peloton between the GC contenders. We just decided to stay on the wheels today and save some energy for tomorrow. We tried to take some bonus seconds on the top of the climb with Izagirre.
"Also, Visconti said that he felt good so we tried to do the sprint with him and he came second. Unfortunately, Cort was the strongest guy in the peloton. Once he was over the climb, it was 100 per cent that he would win the stage, even with Van Avermaet in the bunch. We are happy with what we did today and we look forward to tomorrow's stage."
The penultimate day of action will take the riders up Green Mountain, or Jabal Al Akhdhar, a 5.7km climb that averages 10.5%. Joining Izagirre in the top 15 of the general classification is Nibali at 33 seconds and Visconti at 1:05. It gives the team plenty of cards to play with but Štangelj says that it's up to the other teams to attack them rather than the other way around.
"It is difficult to say, Gorka is in better condition so he can control the race and Vincenzo has some gaps so normally he should attack but it difficult to say,” he said. "There are also other guys who want to win the stage. For now, we have an advantage over other GC contenders with Gorka. The other teams have to attack us and then we will see how strong we are and the rest of the team."
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