A strong attack on the final descent netted the Luxembourg rider his first victory of the season.
Etixx – Quick-Step's 9th success of 2016 was recorded on the inaugural stage of the Tour of Oman (Oman Exhibition Center – Al Bustan, 145.5 km), and it came as a result of a gutsy attack of Bob Jungels in the last kilometers, which saw the 23-year-old power away from the bunch and celebrate his maiden win of the season, taking the general, points and youth classification lead.
Following a couple of attempts right after the flag was dropped, five riders eventually managed to snap the elastic and push a six-minute lead in the blink of an eye: Berden De Vries (Roompot Oranje), Kenny Dehaes (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Peter Koning (Drapac), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Argon 18) and Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Topsport Vlaanderen). The gap hovered there for a while, before the teams took out the front of the peloton and began chasing hard behind the escapees, who were caught inside the final 20 kilometers, just as they were hitting the first categorized climb of the day.
Almost immediately, a series of attacks followed. Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) was the first to try his hand, but his action was a short-lived one. Just as the Russian was being reeled in, Sebastien Turgot (AG2R) went off on the final ascent of the day and managed to put 10 seconds between him and the pack, but he too was brought back. On the Al Jissah climb, the pace was really frantic, which led to many riders being dropped, among those to lose contact being Richie Porte (BMC) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).
Inside the final two kilometers, on a downhill section, Bob Jungels attacked and took advantage of his time trialling skills, which allowed him to enter with a handful of seconds in the last kilometer, one that had a flat section, followed by a slight uphill. The Luxembourg champion never looked back and arrived alone at the line, where he claimed the squad's 9th win in the space of four weeks. He also became the fourth newcomer in the Etixx – Quick-Step team to taste success in 2016, after Fernando Gaviria, Marcel Kittel and Daniel Martin.
"I felt strong, had good legs and was very motivated coming into the race after riding Valenciana. The team did a great job controlling the stage, one which we knew after doing a recon on Monday. We noticed that the descent can be the ideal terrain to attack, so I talked with the team and decided together with the mechanics to use a 55-tooth chainring on my bike, which proved to be really helpful, because I could slip away on that fast downhill", said Bob Jungels after his first victory in almost eight months."
It's a great moment, and I'm very happy not only for this win, but also because I managed to repay the confidence Etixx – Quick-Step has put in me from the moment it brought me to the team.
"It's going to be hard to defend the jersey over the next stages, because the parcours is demanding, but I will give it my all to keep the lead."
"We were thinking of this stage for some time now, so that's why we had Iljo Keisse at the front of the peloton to control the break, which he did, together with BMC. The last climb was a steep one that we knew well, as we did a recon of it yesterday. With the top coming just a couple of kilometers from the finish, we had to do something. As Gianni, our fast man for the race, wasn't in the main group anymore, Bob could go for the win. He used a big gear and managed to get a nice gap, which brought him the victory. He's leading the race, and we will take it day by day and see what happens", said sport director Rik van Slycke of Jungels, who now holds a 10-second gap over Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) and of 14 seconds on Romain Bardet (AG2R), the riders who round out the overall podium after stage one.
Stage 2 of the Tour of Oman (Omantel Head Office – Quriyat, 162 kilometers) is set to see new fireworks in the general classification, as the riders will fight for the win on a 2.8 km-long climb, with a 6.5% average gradient. Quriyat has been an arrival city before in the race, but this will be the first time that the victory will be decided on the short and punchy ascent.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele