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Oman peloton makes Team Sky pay for their aggression

Roger Hammond (Cervélo TestTeam)

Roger Hammond (Cervélo TestTeam) (Image credit: Sirotti)

The huge crowd at the finish of the fourth stage of the Tour of Oman did not realise it but they had witnessed the most aggressive stage of the race and perhaps the first real evidence that Team Sky's early season success and the way they ride is starting to irritate some of their rivals.

As the riders got a wipe down, changed and quickly readied for the long drive back to the hotel, the details of what happened out on the road started to emerge. And it became clear that several teams were quietly pleased that Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen had lost the race lead because of the way the new British team had ridden.

Just exactly what happened during the 187km stage is very difficult to understand, with almost everyone Cyclingnews talked to giving a different version of events.

Boasson Hagen made a fundamental error by stopping for a nature break so late in the stage, 55km from the finish, but other riders then took advantage and attacked, breaking one of professional cycling's key unwritten rules.

The Team Sky riders were especially angry with the Cervélo TestTeam but some of the other teams had also worked hard in the decisive breakaway to make sure Boasson Hagen lost the race lead.

Opinions on who was right and who was wrong continued over dinner as the 126 riders ate together in the official race hotel. One directeur sportif who did not want to be named was happy that Team Sky had been taught a lesson. Another felt sorry for Boasson Hagen and said he'd have never let his riders attack in that kind of situation.

Roger Hammond justified the Cervélo Test Team's tactic by revealing how Team Sky had ridden earlier in the stage.

"They brought it upon themselves," the veteran British rider told Cyclingnews.

"I can understand they're pissed off because it was a hard race on the front. Unfortunately that's what comes from having the leader's jersey. It's a responsibility. They wanted to make it easier for themselves by putting everyone in the gutter in the finale but it backfired on them.

"There were a lot of strong guys that got pissed off in the feed zone because they put us all in the gutter. I was at the back doing 65km/h with bags going everywhere because Sky was riding full gas on the front. I don't mind that but then they shouldn't expect us to play by the rulebook.

"They were also riding half road with the full team on the front when Boasson Hagen stopped to piss. We didn't know what's going on so I just went across the road [to form another echelon] and moved up to the front.

"I didn't particularly want to go on the attack then because I was tired from riding in the cross winds after the feed. But as I passed everybody, they all decided to start riding. They [Team Sky] blamed me but if they'd ridden with a bit of respect, the other guys who followed me to the front, wouldn't have hammered them.

"They can have it one way or the other. Either everyone plays the same game or they play unfairly and then they get unfairly treated."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.