The 4th stage of the Tour of Oman would be pivotal in the battle for the overall race lead and it was a challenge Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) proved to be up for, as he was first to cross the finish line atop Green Mountain. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was 2nd and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) rounded out the podium.
With the stage ending up the 8km Green Mountain climb that had an average gradient of 10%, everybody knew this is where all the real action would take place. There was an early escape of 10 riders though, but Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka along with Astana kept them in check right up to the foot of Green Mountain.
After 170km of racing, the peloton started the climb just 2 minutes behind the escapees. Our African Team certainly did not have the favourite for today's stage but in Merhawi Kudus, Serge Pauwels, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Edvald Boasson Hagen we definitely had a few cards to play. As Nibali and Bardet were first to attack Green Mountain, the break faltered and were all caught on the early slopes of the climb.
With no place to hide on this unrelenting climb, those who were feeling good on the day came to the fore. For Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka it was Kudus, Pauwels and impressively, Boasson Hagen who were hanging tough after some solid team work placed them at the head of the race. Multiple Grand Tour winner, Nibali, showed his class though and took a hard earned victory at the summit.
Kudus, our young Eritrean star was our first finisher in 6th place. While Boasson Hagen had to give up his red and green leaders jersey's to Nibali, a fine ride saw him place 10th on the stage and now the Norwegian sits 6th on the general classification. Kudus also moved up to 9th on the general classification after his performance today.
Merhawi Kudus - Rider
This was a very hard climb. My legs felt good before the stage so I was motivated for the last climb. The team did a great job to help me today before the climb and then I just tried to do the best ride possible. Nibali was very strong but I am happy with my result today.
Jean Pierre Heynderickx - Sport Director
After the break went we were controlling the whole day with Astana and AG2R, Tyler Farrar was doing a lot of good work on the front. The boys were working very well together and with 3km to go we still had Merhawi, Serge and Edvald in the leading group. Jacques was not too far behind but he had 2 mechanicals on the climb. At the finish Merhawi did a great a job and also Edvald, on a very, very steep climb it was a great ride by him.