Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) has always been there or thereabouts at the Tour of Oman but it has taken him eight years to land his first victory at the six-day race. A day after being edged out by Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin), and five years after being beaten by Peter Sagan in the same spot, Van Avermaet romped to victory at the Wadi Dayqah Dam on stage 3.
It was a case of head down and pedal like hell as he looked to avoid the same fate that had befallen him when he was passed by Haas before the line in Al Bustan on stage 2. Fortunately for Van Avermaet, his rivals had no answer to his stinging attack inside the final 500 metres.
"It was a hard finish. I knew it from 2013 when I was second here and I just tried to do the same," he said after the stage. "I had better legs, I think, because the moment where I wanted to go I was able to do it and then it was about trying to get to the finish as fast as possible and hoping that nobody could follow. That's what happened so it was a good finish for me and it was a really nice win on this kind of finish."
For the second day running, Astana tried to put the other teams on the ropes by stringing out the peloton on two occasions, notably as they approached the final rise.
"They have the strongest team uphill I think," said Van Avermaet. "I expected that they would try to make it hard for Lutsenko on a finish like this but I think that we came at the right moment just before the descent with 3k to go. We took the lead of the peloton and put me in perfect position. It was nice for me that I could finish off their work."
Van Avermaet's sprint allowed him to take three seconds on the next best rider, Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), and the bonus seconds for the stage win were enough to take the red jersey from Haas. He now leads the overall classification by 11 seconds over Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) but some strong climbers lie just over 30 seconds down, and Van Avermaet maintains that the pivotal Green Mountain stage will be a step too far for him.
"It's a nice extra I think. I not expecting that I'm going to win the Tour of Oman here but I'm here now in the leader's jersey. Tomorrow I'm going to defend it but I think that Green Mountain will be for the climbers so they can take it over again," Van Avermaet explained.
"On a climb like this, I'm going to lose two minutes to the best climbers so I probably don't have enough advantage."
Before the peloton tackles Green Mountain on Saturday, they face a hilly ride around Muscat to the Ministry of Tourism. The 117.5km stage will contain three ascents of the challenging Al Jabal Street climb, which they've already ridden twice during this year's Tour of Oman. It is expected to be a fast and furious stage and it could be another chance for Van Avermaet to notch up a victory before he returns to Europe.
"Tomorrow is a hard day, and it will be hard to control," explained Van Avermaet. "But I think that we have a strong team and three times over this climb will be pretty hard but I think that on this finish I was already two times second and third so I'm able to get over it and maybe I will try to go for another stage win."
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