Michal Kwiatkowski attacks to win Volta ao Algarve stage five and claim overall victory

Geraint Thomas was unable to hold onto his lead, finishing in a group 1-42 down on his team-mate

Michal Kwiatkowski attacked on the final climb of stage five of the Volta ao Algarve to take victory, as well as steal the overall title from Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas.

Kwiatkowski had been part of a large breakaway group that got away early on the mountain stage, and attacked from a reduced bunch with around 2km to go on the final climb.

He beat Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo) into second and Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) into third, with the peloton, containing Geraint Thomas, finally crossing the line at 1-47 down.

The Pole had only been at 19 seconds adrift to Thomas at the start of the day, having won the first summit finish on stage two before Thomas won the time trial on Friday.

But Kwiatkowski was able to show he’s begun the season in fine form, taking another stage win and the overall victory with it.

How it happened

The day began extremely quickly with riders looking for a last shot at victory, with a 31-man break eventually getting away and putting over four minutes into the bunch containing the race leader.

Riders in the break included Kwiatkowski and his Sky team-mate Michal Golas, as well as Guerreiro and Pauwels, along with big names like Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), and Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar of Quick-Step Floors.

That group gradually whittled down through the tough day of climbing, with five ascents to take on. The break really fell apart with around 50km to go, with Lukas Postlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) making a break for it alone.

Stybar jumped across with around 28km to go to join Postlberger, with both of them able to keep the chasers at bay by about 30 seconds or so.

As they approached the final climb however, Postlberger was unable to keep the pace and left Stybar up front alone with 11km remaining.

The Czech champion held the chasers of admirably, but the final climb was too much for him and he began to slow.

The reduced break behind was then able to close on him, and with around 2km to go, Kwiatkowski attacked and easily bridged to Stybar, immediately passing him.

Pauwels and Gerreiro made chase, also passing Stybar, but they couldn’t do enough to bring back Kwiatkowski, who cruised home for victory at the top of the climb.

Behind, Geraint Thomas came in among a reduced peloton at 1-47, losing his title to his team-mate and dropping into second overall.

Results

Volta ao Algarve 2018, stage five: Faro – Malhão (173.5km)

1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, in 4-18-02
2 Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo, at 4s
3 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, at 8s
4 Stefan Kung (Sui) BMC Racing Team at 13s
5 Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 15s
6 Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty – Groupe Gobert, at 17s
7 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb, at 17s
8 Julen Amezqueta (Esp) Caja Rural Seguros RGS, at 23s
9 Ben Swift (GBr) (UAE Team Emirates), at 29s
10 Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert, at 35s

Final overall classification

1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, in 18-54-11
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-31
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team, at 2-16
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-22
5 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 2-33
6 Jaime Roson (Esp) Movistar Team, at 2-49
7 Maximillian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, at 2-50
8 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data, at st
9 Felix Grosschartner (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2-51
10 Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team, at 2-54

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Tim Wellens secures Ruta del Sol victory as David De La Cruz wins final time trial

Chris Froome finishes outside the top-10 as Wellens rides to the overall win on stage five

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) did enough to secure overall victory in the Ruta del Sol in the stage five time trial, finishing 14 seconds adrift of stage winner David De La Cruz (Team Sky).

The Belgian began the day as overall leader and had a number of high calibre riders breathing down his neck, with Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Wout Poels (Team Sky) at seven and 11 seconds respectively in second and third place.

But neither, nor those slightly further adrift, were able to produce a performance to unseat Wellens, with Poels beating him by two seconds to move up to second overall and Landa losing a heap of time to drop to 42 seconds and sixth place overall.

De La Cruz, who wasn’t in overall contention, capped off a great week for Team Sky – who had already taken a stage win through Poels – with his impressive time of 17-11 over the 14.2km course.

Team Sky had held the best time the majority of the stage, with Dylan Van Baarle setting an early benchmark at 17-23, before De La Cruz took his turn and moved into the top of the standings.

All eyes were then on Chris Froome, who dropped out of overall contention in Saturday’s tough uphill finish and had promised to ’empty the tank’ in the final day time trial where he was favourite for stage victory.

It wasn’t to be for the four-time Tour winner though, who looked well off his best against the clock with a time of 17-38. That time saw him finish out of the top-10 on the stage but hold on to finish 10th in the overall standings.

Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador came closest to knocking Spaniard De La Cruz off top spot, missing out by six seconds, while his Movistar team-mate Marc Soler put in an impressive ride to clock 17.20 and move up to third overall.

Wellens began his run off the ramp strongly and never looked in too much danger of losing his overall title. However an impressive performance from Poels, who set a time of 17.22, meant Wellens needed to finish with 17.33 to claim victory.

In the end the 26-year-old was able to cross the line with eight seconds to spare, sealing his first GC victory of 2018.

Results

Ruta del Sol 2018, stage five: Barbate – Barbate (14.2km ITT)

1 David De La Cruz (Esp) Team Sky, in 17-11
2 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team, at 6s
3 Stef Clement (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 7s
4 Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 8s
5 Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar Team, at 9s
6 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 11s
7 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky, at 12s
8 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 14s
9 Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, at 24s
10 Luis León Sanchez (Esp) Astana Pro Team, st

Final overall classification

1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, in 17-41-50
2 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 8s
3 Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar Team, at 27s
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team, at 30s
5 Luis León Sanchez (Esp) Astana Pro Team, st
6 Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar Team, at 42s
7 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-19
8 Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale, at 1-41
9 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team, at 1-51
10 Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-57.

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Adam Blythe given late disqualification after illegal bike change at Tour of Oman

The Briton was unable to contest the final sprint stage of the race after commissaires disqualified him

Former British champion Adam Blythe was left disappointed after being disqualified from the final stage of the Tour of Oman on Sunday.

The 28-year-old received the sanction mid-race after taking an irregular bike change in the closing kilometres of the 135.5km stage between Al Mouj and Matrah Corniche.

>>> Kristoff sprints to final stage victory at Tour of Oman as Lutsenko secures overall victory

The issue arose when Aqua Blue rider Blythe took a bike from the side of the road as the peloton passed the team car, which had gone ahead to prepare the bike.

Both team directeur sportif Martyn Irvine and Blythe himself were too angry speak with Cycling Weekly after the race.

However, the president of the jury – chief commissaire – Jean-Pierre Coppenolle spoke to reporters at the finish line.

“The team manager of Blythe asked if he could go in front To prepare the bike, and I said yes because the new system of brakes is not easy,” Copppenolle said.

“He can go to the front to prepare the bike, but the changing of the bike that must happen behind the bunch and from the car.

“He gives the bike, but from the front, with the new rules it is not allowed.”

Technical support during races is covered by UCI regulation 2.3.029 which states,

“… Mechanical assistance at fixed locations on the course is limited to wheel changes only except for races on a circuit where bike changes can be made in the authorized zones.

“Any mechanical assistance which fails to meet the obligations above will result in the disqualification of the rider either immediately, or after the race if proven by any means and verified by the commissaires (article 12.1.001).”

The following regulation, 2.3.030 continues

“Whatever the position of a rider in the race, he may receive such assistance and mechanical check (brakes for example) only to the rear of his bunch and when stationary…”

Spare bikes at the Tour of Oman are transported in modified pick up trucks, the bikes carried sideways with the front wheel removed.

This year Aqua Blue have been riding the new 3T Strada which not only boasts a single chainring set up, but also disc brakes.



Last week during stage two of the Dubai Tour, Quick-Step Floors’ sprinter Elia Viviani suffered a puncture with 20km remaining and the consequent wheel change took 50 seconds to complete. Viviani won that stage, but it was that sort of delay Aqua Blue may have been trying to avoid.

Blythe’s disappointment is wholly justified as the incident meant he was unable to contest the sprint finish later won by Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates).

With third place on the final stage of the Dubai Tour last week and three other recent top 10 results, Blythe has shown good sprint form this year, and missed out on the chance of victory as a result of the disqualification.

It went form bad to worse for Aqua Blue in the race as Blythe’s lead out man Shane Archbold was in excellent position in the final kilometre, but suffered a mechanical and he too was unable to contest the sprint.

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Sunday trading: Big discounts on Vittoria tyres, DMT shoes and Castelli kit

Revamp your wardrobe and give your bike some love with some of these wicked deals

Another weekend, another couple of rides in the bag getting you ready for spring and summer. It’s only round the corner now, so these deals are designed to get you ready for the better weather. We’ve got fast rolling tyres, great spring shorts and some fancy shoes.

The products featured have been chosen because we know they’re good quality and are an excellent offer at the price we’ve included (at the time of writing). Our tech team have unrivalled expertise and years of experience testing new products, so you can trust our recommendations – and we also know what represents a good deal.

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Vittoria Corsa G+ clincher twin pack was £109, now £68

Vittoria Corsa Speed

Available in 25c, too

Read more: Vittoria Corsa G+ clincher review

These are without some of the best tyres on the market right now. They’re made of four compounds, and have a kevlar reinforced sidewall. The biggest talking point, though, is the use of graphene. It’s 200 times stronger than steel and very light.

We’ve reviewed these tyres and we found them very fast, with the second lowest rolling resistance of any tyre we’ve tested. With summer coming up these could be the best upgrade purchase you make.

Buy now: Vittoria Corsa G+ clincher twin pack at ProBikeKit for £68

DMT R3 road shoes were £175, now £87.50

These good looking road shoes are now almost £100 off. Depending on the colour you choose, there’s lot of sizes available. In terms of technology, DMT has given the shoes a Boa dial, a full carbon sole and an upper dedicated to suit narrower feet.

Buy now: DMT R3 road shoe at Wiggle for £87.50 

Castelli Omloop thermal bib shorts were £125, now £90

Read more: Castelli Omloop thermal bib shorts review

Castelli’s winter busting thermal shorts are now discounted by a whopping 28%. We’ve reviewed these particular models and love the fact that they’re super warm, lightweight and breathable with, as with most of Castelli’s kit, great rain protection.

This is a great price for these shorts that’ll see you right through until Summer.

Buy now: Castelli Omloop thermal bib shorts at Tredz for £90 

32 servings of SIS Rego Rapid Recovery for £22.95

We’re massive fans of SIS, and its bars are often our first choice when out on the bike. This recovery drink is one of the few that’s actually tasty and beneficial. There’s a choice of four flavours: strawberry, chocolate, banana and our favourite, vanilla.

Buy now: SIS Rego rapid recovery at Evans Cycles for £22

More great bargains:

Continental GP4000S II was £59, now £27.50

Castelli Perfetto long Sleeve Jersey was £175, now £105

FSA Team Issue 11 speed chain was £44.99, now £19.99

Gore Lady short sleeve baselayer was £34.99, now £13.99

Louis Garneau Heros RTR helmet was £129.99, now from £38.99

Eddy Merckx Milano 72 Tiagra Disc ladies’ bike was £2000, now 899

Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ Isotech tyre was £34.99, now from £19.99

Shimano 105 5800 pedals were £109.99, now £65.99

Endura Xtract short sleeve jersey was $34.99, now £13.99

DT Swiss R522 wheelset was £199.99, now £109.99

Bkool Smart Pro 2 turbo trainer was £499.99, now £348.99

Zipp Service Course SL-70 bars were £90, now £55.29

Wilier GTR Team Endurance 105 Disc bike was £2399, now £1919.99

Lizard Skins La Sal 2.0 mitts were £25, now £9.89

Sealskinz Lightweight Overshoes were £38, now £24.69

Deda Geco pure rubber bar tape was £17.99, now £14.69

Fabric Scoop Flat Elite saddle was £44.99, now £30.49

Shimano Ultegra R6800 11-speed cassette was £79.99, now £51.99

More deals next week in the ever-popular Sunday Trading.

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Alexander Kristoff sprints to final stage victory at Tour of Oman as Lutsenko secures overall victory

Norwegian sprinter claims first win of season in Middle East

For the third consecutive year Alexander Kristoff won the final stage at Tour of Oman on Sunday, in so doing taking his first victory since joining UAE Team Emirates this season.

The Norwegian sprinted to victory on the Matrah Corniche, beating stage one victor Brian Coquard (Vital Concept) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo).

For a few moments a bunch sprint appeared in doubt when a breakaway survived until the final lap of the finishing circuit on the Corniche on the outskirts of the capital city, Muscat. Remi Cavagna (Quick-Step Floors) had been the last of a five-man group to be taken back with less than five kilometres to ride.

Finishing safely in the bunch, Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) won the general classification.

How it happened

As with the previous stages this week, on the wide dual carriageways bypassing Muscat a breakaway formed soon after kilometre zero. Frenchman Cavagna, Xandro Farazijn (Sport Vlaanderen), Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Lotterij) and Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural), all veterans of previous breakaways this week, quickly built a lead of 4.50.

Behind, with a bunch finish likely, and Meurisse 9-29 down, the closest on general classification, the Astana team of race leader Lutsenko left the chase to the sprinter’s teams.

The day’s two classified climbs at 83 and 100km and, on the approach to those and the finishing laps on the Corniche beyond them, the peloton began closing in on the five escapees.

Buy the time the leaders crossed the line for the first of three times,with 22km remaining, the gap was down to 1.15, the bunch toying with the remaining escapees, Cavagna and Ligthart.

In the final kilometres Cavagna went solo, crossing the finish line for the penultimate time with just 30 seconds advantage but with the bunch behind the sprint final became inevitable.

As has been the case in each edition since its introduction in 2010, the overall was won on Green Mountain on Satruday’s queen stage. Lutsenko finishing second there behind team-mate Miguel Angel Lopez, himself taking second on the general classification, winning the young rider’s competition.

Kristoff’s sprint success takes to eight the number of stages the Norwegian has won in Oman, a record for the event.

Top placed British rider was Aqua Blue’s Mark Christian in 35th place, with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) five places further down.

Former British champion Adam Blythe, who was targeting the stage, was disqualified for taking an irregular bike change late in the 135.5km sage between Al Mouj and Matrah Corniche.

Results

Tour of Oman 2018, stage six: Al Mouj Muscat to  Matrah Corniche, 135.5km

1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, in 3-11-29
2. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept Cycling Club
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin, all at same time

Final general classification

1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 22-49-50 22:49:50
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana, at 11 secs 0:00:11
3. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida, at 28 secs 0:00:28
4. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, at 30 secs 0:00:30
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin, at 32 secs 0:00:32
6. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-05 0:01:05
7. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, at 1-14
8. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 1-24
9. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data, at 1-29
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-37

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Meintjes: Coming back to Dimension Data has always been part of the plan

The saying ‘never go back’ isn’t one that Louis Meintjes dwelled upon when he re-signed with Dimension Data, and all indications so far are that the South African has settled back with his old team after a two-year sabbatical with Lampre and UAE Team Emirates.

Starting his season at the Volta ao Algarve, the 25-year-old put in a respectable performance on the first summit finish of the race, and although his ride in the individual time trial on Friday was below his best, Meintjes is relaxed about his form as he builds towards the Giro d’Italia in May.

“I’m here to see if I’m on track. If the form is good then you can try and get something for your work but it’s not a major goal, in that we come here looking to start with a bang. It’s not the end of the world if we still see there’s more work to be done,” he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 1.

Four stages later and Meintjes can be relatively content with his ride so far. He is a notoriously quiet at this point in the year, tending to find form in late spring and summer. Friday’s individual test against the clock was his first competitive outing on his Cervelo time trial bike, and although the result didn’t stand out, the climber still took positives from the experience.

“The time trial could have gone better,” he said. “It wasn’t a disaster, but I need some improving. This is my first time here, and the guys say that Sunday’s climb should be better for me. I’ll give it another go, and I felt good on the climb the other day. If everything goes well, then it could be a good day.

“Friday was my first real hit on the new time trial bike, and going full gas. I felt good, I just wasn’t as fast as I would have liked.”

With one stage remaining, Meintjes sits 18th on GC, although Sunday’s summit finish does suit his characteristics.

After Algarve, the Dimension Data rider will head to Tirreno-Adriatico, Catalunya and then the Tour of the Alps – his final race before a tilt at the Giro d’Italia. He will also race the Vuelta a Espana later in the summer, but the Giro is a departure from previous programmes. In the last three seasons, Meintjes has raced the Tour de France and picked up two top-10 results for his efforts.

“It’s to do with the courses, and the Tour has a really tricky first week,” he replied when asked about his race plan.

“I think it will be harder for a rider like me to do a good GC in this year’s Tour.”

Meintjes left Dimension Data [at the time called MTN-Qhubeka, ed.] in 2015 when the team’s former manager, Brent Copeland, brought him to Lampre on a two-year deal. The partnership only lasted a season, with Copeland leaving to set up the Bahrain Merida project at the start of 2017.

Copeland tried to bring Meintjes with him but was unable to cut the cord with Lampre’s paying agent, who owned the contract. When Meintjes came back on the market last summer, Copeland was once again interested in the rider’s services but Dimension Data rekindled their affair with the rider with a new two-year deal.

“It’s been pretty good so far, and it’s been relaxed. I guess it’s always been part of the plan, coming back here. At least in the bigger picture. It’s comfortable situation and also there’s some pride, with all the fans back home,” he told Cyclingnews.

“It’s a home team. It was sad to leave but at that time I was also excited to learn new things. I learned a lot and it gave me some confidence and opportunities. It’s not something that I regret. It’s really nice to be back and part of this project.

“I would have liked to have kept working with Brent if the option had been there, but at the end of the day I already had a year with all the guys at Lampre, so it wasn’t like a major setback or something like that.”

The fundamental question for Meintjes is whether he can kick on and turn two eighth places at the Tour and a 10th at the Vuelta into a top five or higher at the Giro.

“I’m trying to figure that out, and hopefully I’ll keep improving. Hopefully, experience helps. The support here is amazing, and hopefully, with a good build up we can manage it. It’s really exciting and the Tour is a lot of stress, so it’s going to be a bit less to deal with at the Giro.”

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Geraint Thomas continues to lead Volta ao Algarve after Dylan Groenewegen wins stage four

Dylan Groenewegen takes his second stage win of the 2018 Volta ao Algarve as Geraint Thomas leads the race going into Sunday’s final stage

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) finished safely in the peloton on stage four of the 2018 Volta ao Algarve in Portugal on Saturday to retain the overall race lead with one stage remaining.

Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) took his second victory of the race, claiming the bunch sprint win ahead of Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe) in second and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) in third.

Welshman Thomas maintained his overall race lead ahead of Sky team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski, with Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) in third.

>>> Volta ao Algarve 2018: Latest news, reports and race info

How it happened
There were some familiar names in the day’s escape group, with mountains classification leader Benjamin King (Dimension Data) going out in the hunt for climbing points on the day’s two categorised climbs along with João Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto), who held the KOM jersey after stage one.

They were joined by four other riders: Rory Sutherland (UAE Team Emirates), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Bruno Silva (Efapel) and Aleksandr Grigorev (Sporting-Tavira).

King crested the two categorised climbs in the lead to grab the maximum points, and then the break settled in to continuing its day’s work.

The peloton seemed happy to let them continue – albeit it with a narrow advantage. As the break hit 20km to go, the gap was less than a minute and Silva was dropped on a minor climb.

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), Guillaume Bonnafond Cofidis) and Dylan Teuns (BMC) picked this moment to attack from the bunch. They were joined by Jasha Sutterlin (Movistar).

Despite having fresher legs than the original break, the Gilbert quartet struggled to make contact with the front group, stuck between them and the peloton.

By the time the junction between the two leading groups was made with around 10km to go, the peloton was just 10 seconds behind them.

Gilbert looked to be the most committed in making the break succeed, taking long turns at the front, gritting his teeth.  However, it wasn’t to be, and they were reeled in with 3km to go to set up a bunch sprint.

LottNL-Jumbo lined-up Groenewegen perfectly for the finale, and the Dutchman duly claimed the win – his third of the year so far.

The 2018 Volta ao Algarve concludes on Sunday, February 18, with stage five. It’s a tricky course from Faro to Malhão over 173.5km, with plenty of hills and a 3km finishing climb that pitches up in places at a gradient of 10 per cent.

Barring disaster, Thomas is positioned well to take his third overall victory in the race.



Result

Volta ao Algarve 2018, stage four: Almodôvar to Tavira, 199.2km
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 4-33-49
2. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
4. Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
5. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing
6. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis
8. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
9. Loïc Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, all same time

General classification after stage four
1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, in 14-35-50
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 19 secs
3. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar, at 32 secs
4. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 52 secs
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, at 53 secs
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-01
7. Jaime Roson (Esp) Movistar, at 1-18
8. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-20
9. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky, at 1-24
10. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-31

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Daniel Pearson climbs with the best to seventh place on Tour of Oman queen stage

23-year-old British rider Daniel Pearson put in an impressive climbing performance to place ahead of Vincenzo Nibali and Rui Costa on Green Mountain

It didn’t take long for Dan Pearson to roll to a halt after the crossing the finish line in seventh place on Saturday’s stage of the Tour of Oman.

The severe gradient on Jabar Al Akhdhar – Green Mountain – all but stopped him in his tracks and, with the searing heat baking all the riders as they climbed the five-kilometre ascent, he soon found a place in the shade of the roadside wall.

It had been a notable performance for the Welshman, though he was remarkably sanguine about his achievement.

“It was a good effort. It was a step up from last year so I’m quite happy,” he breathed between gulps of water.

Seventh was indeed a step up for 23-year-old Pearson, though the 11th place he collected last year was not to be sniffed at either, especially in what was his first year at Pro Continental level with Aqua Blue Sport.

>>> Miguel Ángel López wins Tour of Oman stage five after Astana dominate on Green Mountain

Today’s ride saw Pearson finish ahead of luminaries such as Tour, Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali who won the corresponding stage in 2016, and former world champion Rui Costa, among others. Indeed he rode away from group containing those two to finish just 33 seconds behind stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).

“The worst thing to contend with was the heat,” he continued. “It was so hot you just could can’t put the power out when your heart rate is over the normal limit. You’ve got to make sure you keep yourself cool and not go too early because as soon as you overheat you’re knackered.

Daniel Pearson during the 2018 Dubai Tour. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

“I had to slip back a little bit as they drove it at the start because there is no need to go so deep there and I was probably in 15th or 16th wheel. People were just dropping out of line as they were getting cooked and you just have to close those gaps and work your way up to the front.”

Eventually Pearson found himself in a group with Nibali, Costa among others and, able to attack, he did.

“You can’t look at it and say ‘this is Nibali’ you just think he’s strong and I can follow him, you think about them as a strong rider, like in another bike race.

“I didn’t want to go alone before that downhill, so I waited and started going on the steep bit and no one was really doing anything, so I thought I would give it a go.

“I didn’t really attack super-hard I just tried to pace myself really, and ride my own pace to the top.”



Aqua Blue has achieved excellent results in the Middle East campaign to date. Testament, Pearson believes, to the excellent team work in the Irish-registered outfit.

“The guys looked after me really well all day, we have really come together as a team. You see in Dubai they were pulling for Adam really well and Adam was getting up there, Mark [Christian] got up there yesterday and I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

For tomorrow’s final stage, Aqua Blue are likely to be working for sprinter Adam Blythe, and it is not yet clear whether Pearson will have to look after himself to retain his seventh place on general classification.

Should he do so, and continue his clear year-on-year improvements, he has a chance of attracting attention from bigger teams in what is the last year of his contract.

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Tim Wellens wins Ruta del Sol stage four and takes race lead from Wout Poels

Belgian Tim Wellens puts himself in a strong position in the general classification of the 2018 Ruta del Sol with just the final time trial to go

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) won stage four of the Ruta del Sol, Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucía in Spain on Saturday to take the overall race lead.

Wellens joined Mikel Landa (Movistar) on the vicious rough, cobbled finishing climb to Alcalá de los Gazules to open a gap on their rivals. Ultimately, Landa couldn’t match Wellens’ experience on the cobbles in the finale of the punchy climb, and had to settle for second.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) came in for third place. Wout Poels (Team Sky) finished in fourth spot, but it was not enough to stop Wellens from relieving him of the overall race lead with just the final time trial remaining. Poels slips to third place overall as Landa rises to second behind Wellens.

>>> Ruta del Sol 2018: Latest news, reports and race info

How it happened
A large 13-rider escape group went clear after a fast-paced opening hour after the start in Sevilla, consisting of Imanol Erviti (Movistar), James Shaw (Lotto-Soudal), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac), Julien Duval (Ag2r), Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Delio Fernández (Delko Marseille Provence KTM), Lukasz Owsian (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Coen Vermeltfoort (Roompot Nederlandse Loterij), Huub Duijn (Vérandas Willems-Crelan), Jesus Ezquerra (Burgos-BH) and Kyle Murphy (Rally Cycling).

The sizeable 1200-metre climb of Puerto de las Palomas followed by the Puerto del Boya punctuated the stage mid-way, and served to break up the racing.

The escape group fractured with the two Wanty riders, Martin and Minnaard, attacking off the front near the foot of the first ascent.

They were later joined by Vanmarcke, and Movistar duo Hector Carretero and Andrey Amador, who had attacked from the peloton after their team had set a blistering pace.

Amador and Vanmarcke then forged ahead on the long descent, opening up a gap of a minute over Carretero and two and a half minutes over the chasing bunch.

Off the descent and into the final 50km a chase was set up, with Vanmarcke and Amador riding a two-up time trial, attempting to keep away from the clutches of the peloton led by Team Sky and Astana.

With 20km to go, the gap had been reduced to a minute but the duo were working well together and managed to hold the gap for the following 10km.

However, inside the final 5km the peloton stepped up the pace, with Amador and Vanmarcke only left with a handful of seconds over the chasers.

Chris Froome was one of several riders to catch a puncture on the rough roads in the final 5km, and was forced to chase back on through the team cars.

Right before the start of the final climb, Vanmarcke and Amador were caught.

Landa was then one of the first riders to move to the front, and was joined by Wellens. The two looked to be in a class of their own on the climb as others struggled on the constantly-changing surface and series of tight switchbacks.

Into the final 500 metres, Wellens had the measure of Landa and came across the line with time to spare for a celebration.

The 2018 Ruta del Sol concludes on Sunday with the final stage, a decisive individual time trial around Barbate. The flat 14.2-kilometre course should suit the pure time triallists and power riders, and could see some significant alterations in the general classification.

Froome has said that he will ’empty the tank’ during the time trial, and figures as one of the favourites for the stage win.



Results

Ruta del Sol 2018, stage four: Sevilla to Alcalá de los Gazules, 191.2km
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 4-36-23
2. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 5 secs
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 12 secs
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 13 secs
5. Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo, at same time
6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 17 secs
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 20 secs
8. Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Astana, at same time
9. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac, at 21 secs
10. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty Groupe Gobert, at 24 secs

General classification after stage four
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 17-24-25
2. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 7 secs
3. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 11 secs
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 14 secs
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Astana, at 20 secs
6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 32 secs
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 58 secs
8. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac, at 1-05
9. Mikel Bizkarra (Esp) Euskadi Basque Country, at 1-14
10. Sergio Pardilla (Esp) Caja Rural, at 1-24

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Miguel Ángel López wins Tour of Oman stage five after Astana dominate on Green Mountain

Astana team scores one-two on ‘queen’ stage of 2018 Tour of Oman to Green Mountain, with Alexey Lutsenko taking the overall race lead

Miguel Ángel López (Astana) won stage five of the 2018 Tour of Oman on Saturday on Green Mountain – the race’s main climbing stage.

The 24-year-old Colombian had attacked alongside two Astana team-mates in the final few kilometres on Green Mountain to secure the victory, with fellow Astana rider Alexey Lutsenko placing second. Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) came in for third place.

Lutsenko now takes the overall race lead from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) with one stage remaining. Lopez is second overall at 11 seconds, with Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) in third at 28 seconds.

>>> Tour of Oman 2018: Latest news, reports and race info

The 2018 Tour of Oman concludes on Sunday, February 18, with the final stage from Al Mouj Muscat to Matrah Corniche that should be a day for the sprinters.

Full report to follow…

Result

Tour of Oman 2018, stage five: Sama’il to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain), 152km
1. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, in 3-43-58
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, at same time
3. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 12 secs
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 15 secs
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Kausha-Alpecin, at 22 secs
6. Peter Stetina (USA) Trek-Segafredo, at 25 secs
7. Daniel Pearson (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport, at 33 secs
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 43 secs
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing, at 47 secs
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 49 secs

General classification after stage five
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, in 19-38-21
2. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 11 secs
3. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 28 secs
4. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 30 secs
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Kausha-Alpecin, at 32 secs
6. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 1-05
7. Daniel Navarro (Esp) Cofidis, at 1-14
8. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe-Gobert, at 1-24
9. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data, 1-29
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-37

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