Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) ended the Tour of Oman as he had started it six days ago, sprinting to victory and donning the green jersey of the points classification. On Tuesday's final stage 6, at Matrah Corniche, the Colombian took win number two of the race and his season, outsprinting BikeExchange-Jayco youngster Kaden Groves.
The victory came with a touch of controversy as Gaviria's lead-out man Max Richeze was disqualified hours after the stage. The veteran was adjudged to have impeded Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) in the final dash to the line.
Cavendish, who was in contention for green heading into the final day despite being docked nine points for pushing off the medical car three times during stage 5, could be seen arguing with the Argentinean veteran as the pair crossed the line.
"We take this decision because Richeze is coming to the right-hand side and he blocked Cavendish off," said race jury head Jempi Jooren to Wielerflits.
"We think Cavendish probably can win the race, but he lost the green jersey, so it was not a very big act of violence but it’s a very big act on sporting reasons. Probably if Cavendish wins the stage, then he wins the green jersey too. That's probably the biggest reason to disqualify."
Stage 2 winner Cavendish banged his handlebars mid-sprint and animatedly protested Richeze's riding, though after the drawn-out podium ceremonies following the stage, Gaviria argued that there was no case to be answered.
"I don't speak with Mark because it isn't like that. Max just started to the right side from the guy from BikeExchange and then you if you won't pass, you need to move," he said.
"Sometimes it's the wrong way. The day Mark won, the guy from Arkéa-Samsic [Amaury Capiot] passed me and then closed me to the barrier and then nothing happened. That is cycling. It's not like fighting every day and it goes like this. Max tried to go in front and then didn't really look in the behind and didn't really go to the barrier.
"When Mark said something, I saw the video and Max went a little bit to the left. Max is not a bad guy to do something like that. It's not new in this cycling but it's like that. Sometimes in the sprint, you take the sprint the wrong way and then you need to brake."
Despite the small dark cloud in the day, which for Gaviria was as perfect as the blue skies above Muscat, the Colombian was only happy with the result. He said that he had gained confidence during the week – both in terms of his sprinting ability and throughout the team to go to the front of the peloton and take control for the final run-ins.
"I feel really good," he said to the assembled media after the drawn-out final podium ceremony. "I'm really happy because a long time ago I don't feel these legs and the confidence about the team and then always we are scared to take the decision to go in front.
"But not anymore because now we feel the victory. We know what we do and it's just about trying to continue like that."
Sensing Cavendish was off-colour
The final stage, which took in 132.5 kilometres on the highways south of Muscat with two sharp climbs and a technical finishing circuit thrown in, was always set to be a day for the sprinters despite the difficulties.
Both of the day's climbs – Al Hamriyah at 50km to go and Al Jissah at 32km to go – were short and steep at around a kilometre and nine per cent, and Gaviria said that he and his team coped better than some of his sprint contenders.
"It's difficult because at 35 kilometres to go, the climb put all the sprinters in a critical moment and actually we passed the climb really good in the front. Then it's much easier to have of the control the race," Gaviria said.
"In the last part I just followed my teammates and trusted the team do the best job for the for the final. Just in the last part we waited a lot and then we needed to start the sprint, Max and me at the same time, but this is okay when you win."
Gaviria's teammate Ryan Gibbons had earlier snatched a point at the final intermediate sprint as the Colombian sought to fight Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl for green. The South African said after the finish that he was absolved of full lead-out duties after his sprinter had noticed Cavendish's breathing in the peloton – to them, a sign that he wasn't at his best after crashing on stage 5.
"So coming in with about a kilometre to go I was moving up and I got up alongside Fernando and Mark was on his wheel and Fernando said, 'don't worry about pacing' because normally I'd be the second guy in front of him ahead of Max Richeze," Gibbons said.
"And he said that he can feel that Mark is – like you can hear him breathing so just kind of stay around him and that's what I did but I could see that Mark obviously with the crash yesterday just wasn't feeling his best.
"In the final BikeExchange actually took it on. It was quite fast and with a bit of a headwind as well. We don't want to go too early and Fernando, trusts Richeze from yours and years back. So, it was kind of just only really Max in front of Fernando, and then he ended the rest."
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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.