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DSM youngsters eye Tour of Oman podium spot on Green Mountain

MUSCAT OMAN FEBRUARY 13 Kevin Vermaerke of United States and Team DSM competes in the breakaway during the 11th Tour Of Oman 2022 Stage 4 a 1195km stage from Al Sifah to Mucat TourofOman on February 13 2022 in Muscat Oman Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) in the breakaway on Stage 4 of the Tour of Oman 2022 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

On a hilly day which saw QuickStep-AlphaVinyl animate the Tour of Oman with several riders before taking a one-two finish and putting Fausto Masnada in the leader's red jersey, Team DSM were another squad that stood out for their aggressive racing.

The Dutch squad finished with two men in the chase group at 1:07 behind Masnada on stage 4, shooting Kevin Vermaerke and Henri Vandenabeele up the general classification into seventh and eighth.

Early on in the explosive 119.5-kilometre day, which took in five major climbs south of Muscat, DSM were prominent at the front of the peloton. They chased down the early break inside the first 40 kilometres as they sought to make the race hard for their GC rivals. 

Come the finale, with three ascents of the same four-kilometre hill packed into a 35-kilometre span at 15 kilometres from the finish line, both men were up in the lead group among the red jersey favourites. Although Masnada – after several attempts – managed to slip away for the stage win and race lead, the two 21-year-olds were pleased with how the day went especially with the tough summit finish of Green Mountain coming on Monday.

"I think we can be happy with how aggressive we were today and we really animated the race," second-year pro Vermaerke said after the stage. "We expected it to be full racing all day and actually it was a bit of an easier start than we expected.

"With that super steep climb right out of the gates, we thought it would blow up there already. But it was a pretty easy pace so on the first climb, we took initiative and split the race with the whole team."

Vandenabeele, who turned pro with DSM this year, added that he felt better as the stage went on, though even then, he and Vermaerke weren't able to organise the chase group behind Masnada as the Italian's teammate Mauro Schmid played spoiler.

"I didn't have the best feeling on the first climb, so I waited a bit and it went better and better the last climb. Then, I saw that I wanted to go for a stage win and we went with Masnada and a couple of other guys.

"Masnada got away in the descent. That was a bit shit because Mauro Schmid did a good job for his team. But it was shit for us because the collaboration wasn't good, and then I was actually really on the limit the last 10 kilometres."

The pair now look ahead to Green Mountain, which measures in at 6 kilometres long with a 10 per cent average gradient at the end of 150.5 kilometres of racing. Vandenabeele is the man for DSM, Vermaerke said.

"Going into the last climb I just tried to get up the road and get a little bit of time because I know I can't climb with the top guys," he said. "But if I could have 30 seconds I think I can make it over and then yeah, that's a perfect situation when Henri came across with the top guys.

"He's coming super well so, especially with Green Mountain tomorrow, I think Henri for GC."

Vandenabeele said that he's sure Masnada, who now enjoys a 55-second GC lead, will win the race overall with two stages left to run. A podium spot – 25 seconds up the standings – could be a possibility, though, with the Belgian enjoying steep gradients like the ones found on the summit finish.

"It's only one climb," he said. "I think Masnada for sure wins Oman. But yeah, maybe the podium is still possible. It's a bit shit I lost 14 seconds on the second day because I was the wrong side of a roundabout in the end, but I think tomorrow it's everyone for his own with the steep gradients.

"Normally I'm pretty good at [steep climbs], but I only did it at under-23 level, so we'll see how it goes."

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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.

Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.