Having won on the opening stage and finished second on stage 2, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) was the favourite for stage 4 of the Tour of Oman on Tuesday but was left frustrated by what he felt was a dangerous sprint by Clement Venturini (AG2R La Mondiale), who took third place.
After the bunch had been thinned by three ascents of the Al Jabal Street climb, Venturini’s teammate Oliver Naesen led out the sprint, and Kristoff opened the taps when Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) launched the sprint with 200 metres to go.
As stage winner Sonny Colbrelli surged up the right-hand side, Kristoff felt he was impeded by Venturini, who also went right to look for the slipstream of Van Avermaet and Colbrelli.
Beyond the finish line, Kristoff was visibly annoyed at what had happened.
"Ah, the AG2R guy just changed his line completely and almost crashed me into the barriers," he told Cyclingnews.
"He cut me [off], and I had to break, because I almost crashed."
Later, UAE Team Emirates issued a press release in which Kristoff made only a passing reference to being 'blocked'. Another factor in his defeat, he explained, was an error he had already committed – that of not taking the initiative and opening his sprint earlier.
"In the finale, we had a good position, but maybe I hesitated too much," he said. "It was a hard finish also, uphill. I was waiting, waiting, and in the end, I was a little blocked. I had to brake in the sprint.
"It's easy to say after what you should have done. It was a small mistake for me, I'm not too happy with myself, but I'll have another chance in two days."
Venturini did not mention his sprinting line, but also expressed frustration over a lack of impulse.
"I'm happy with this podium but I think I didn't have enough confidence in myself. I had a moment's hesitation and I started my sprint on the back foot. It's a shame," he said.
"Given their palmares, I'm almost embarrassed to be led out by guys like Oliber [Naesen] and Silvan [Dillier]. Now I've got to believe that I can fight for victory in these sorts of races."
After Wednesday plays host to the general classification showdown on Green Mountain, the Tour of Oman will conclude on the Mattrah Corniche on Thursday, where Kristoff, who won the final stage last year, will have the chance to book-end the race on a winning note.
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