Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) had his best result of the season when he finished ninth on the 152-kilometre fifth stage of the Tour of Oman from Sama’il to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain). Roche’s team mate and previous race leader Greg van Avermaet struggled however and slipped down to 16th overall on a stage which saw a big shake-up in GC.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) won the stage ahead of his team mate Alexey Lutsenko and Lutsenko is the new leader with Lopez in second place 11″ down. Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team) sits in third place overall with Roche moving up to 20th.
As soon as the flag dropped six riders went clear and began to extend an advantage over the rest of the field and after 20 kilometres, the gap had gone out 4’40″ and it hovered between four and five minutes for most of the sage.
Heading into the final 30 kilometres, an increase in pace saw the gap begin to fall, and by the time the race reached the bottom of the climb to Green Mountain, with just over 5 kilometres to go, the peloton trailed the early breakaway by less than two minutes.
Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling) led with 4 kilometres left but was caught by what was left of the bunch one kilometre later. Behind, Roche was riding as part of a 10-rider chasing group before he launched a counter-attack in an attempt to bridge across to the late leaders with 2 kilometres to go.
In the end, it was Miguel Ángel López who proved to be the strongest on the day, taking the win just ahead of Lutsenko. Roche crossed the line 47 seconds behind López.
Nicolas Roche: “Today was a good day for me. I am quite happy about finishing in the top ten. This week was all about finding form and going deep, and when we came here, the GC wasn’t a priority, it was all about winning a stage with Greg. So the other day, I completely sacrificed my GC chances for him, and it worked out. Today, I had my chance on the stage, and I gave it all to go really deep ahead of the next races. I wasn’t expecting any more. I was hoping to be in the top ten or 15 places, so I am happy.”
“The form is going better day after day. Dubai Tour was my first race, and I lacked a bit of rhythm there. This week has already been better, and I am quite happy with how these past two weeks in the Middle East have gone. I am definitely better than this time last year, and I think that is a good sign for the upcoming months.”