Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) sprinted to an emphatic victory on stage three of the Tour of Oman, overcoming a late escape on Al Jissah – instigated by Chris Froome (Team Sky) – to reclaim his overall lead.
With Peter Sagan (Cannondale) having won the same stage last year, the race appeared set to be decided on the final climb of the day, with just 6.5 kilometres from the summit to the finish line.
But though the Slovakian ace and Froome attacked on the descent, the race came back together in the final kilometre to allow the Gorilla to comprehensively outsprint Sagan and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) for his fifth victory of the season.
And having seen his overall lead wiped out on stage two after an ill-timed mechanical, Greipel’s ten-second time bonus for the victory ensures he moves back into the red jersey ahead of stage four.
Four riders had formed the initial day’s break with Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF) and Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) together in the escape again after their exploits in stage one.
The two were joined by Kevyn Ista (IAM Cycling) and Martijn Maaskant (UnitedHealthcare) as once again the ProTeams showed no interest in being part of the attack.
Instead, Orica-GreenEDGE – protecting overall leader Leigh Howard – and Cannondale, bidding to set up Sagan for victory, led the chase with the gap never enough to cause any alarm.
The four still led as they hit the foot of Al Hamriya, but though Wallays led the way over the top the bunch were breathing down upon them and swallowed them up shortly after Boem had taken his second intermediate sprint of the day – and third of the Tour.
Still bunched as they began the climb of Al Jissah, Dario Cataldo (Team Sky) led team-mate Froome over the top of the climb, with Sagan in hot pursuit.
The Kenyan-born Brit took off on the descent, putting a very small distance between himself and the chasing group, with Sagan, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) for company.
However, Sagan’s hopes of a repeat of his 2013 victory were curtailed when the bunch swept them up inside the final kilometre.
And having once again proved he can handle the climbs – as he did at the Tour Down Under – Greipel would not be denied in the bunch sprint.
Tour of Oman 2014: stage three – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – 3.29.08
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale – ST
3) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ.fr
4) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky
5) Marco Canola (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
6) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
7) Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) – Astana
8) Zak Dempster (AUS) – Team NetApp-Endura
9) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
10) Enrico Battaglin (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – 10.44.20
2) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE +8″
3) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha + 10″
4) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale +14″
5) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ.fr +16″
6) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – ST
7) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Belisol +19″
8) Alessandro Bazzana (ITA) – UnitedHealthCare – ST
9) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky +20″
10) Daniele Bennati (ITA) – Tinkoff-Saxo – ST