Magnus Cort (Astana) has only once been outside the top 10 so far this season, but the Dane had thus far been unable to convert that into a trip to the top step of the podium. Cort finally broke his duck with a strong ride to win stage 4 of the Tour of Oman outside the Ministry of Tourism.
The victory is Cort's first in the blue of Astana and his first since the Clasica de Almeria almost 12 months ago to the day. Cort had come into the Tour of Oman with plenty of confidence after finishing second overall at the Dubai Tour last week, but he was delighted to move from runner-up to winner.
"It means a lot. I've been second twice in Dubai and then second in the general there also," Cort told Cyclingnews after the stage. "It's very nice to finally take the win and not get another top three. There is a big difference. I knew coming in here that I would pull a result off when they were working for me. The question was just what and the win was what I went for and I got it."
Alexander Kristoff won this stage last year, but he'd only managed it thanks to a dogged chase off the final climb. Friday's 117.5km stage 4 was always going to be a tricky one for the sprinters with five classified climbs, including the three ascents of the Al Jabal Street climb. Pure sprinters such as Mark Cavendish and Nacer Bouhanni took to the gruppetto early on Al Jabal, saving their legs for another day, and though Giacomo Nizzolo and Kristoff took a little longer to shake off, some solid work from Astana and others helped to dispatch them.
A confident Cort had his team go all in for him, and he was the only pure fast man left in the bunch. Cort launched his sprint soon after the final curve and had a substantial gap on the riders behind when he hit the line.
"We had Omar Fraile working on the front to make sure that we didn't have any fast guys in the group. [Alexey] Lutsenko was doing the lead-out in the final for me and he was extremely strong," explained Cort. "We had a small discussion about who was strong and who had the legs. I said that I was ready for the sprint and they sacrificed their own chances in order to help me.
"It is even more nice that I show that I had the legs and I'm very happy for this win and also with the teamwork and in general it is always nice to get a win."
Stage 4 will not be Cort's final chance to take a victory at the Tour of Oman but he will have to wait as the climbers come to the fore for the queen stage to Green Mountain.
"Tomorrow it's my turn in the worker's jersey," Cort joked.
His teammate, Lutsenko is sitting in second place overall, nine seconds behind the leader Van Avermaet, but it is Miguel Angel Lopez, just 24 seconds back in fourth place, who is the team's favoured rider for the overall classification.
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