Fausto Masnada digs deep in Oman queen stage
One of the earliest summit finishes of the season, and one of the most brutal climbs in the sport, Jabal Al Akhdhar created some significant gaps – as expected – and reshuffled the general classification, which at the start of the day was led by Fausto Masnada following his impressive solo victory in Muscat.
But the stage was an eventful one long before the riders arrived at the front of the ascent, as the crosswinds made an appearance with more than 60 kilometers to go, spreading chaos in the bunch. Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl was well-represented in the first echelon, both Masnada and Mark Cavendish being there, but soon a crash happened and the green jersey wearer hit the ground. Fortunately, the Manxman remounted quickly and joined the chasing group, which ten kilometers later managed to bridge across.
“As is normal with the chaos of echelons forming, I had a touch of wheels and unfortunately I came down quite heavily. I am lucky that my injuries seem to not be too bad and I was able to get on my bike, with just some bruising and external abrasions. I hope that the other riders involved are also ok and I would also like to thank the race doctor for looking after me”, said Mark after the stage.
Our team led the peloton until the foot of the Green Mountain, making sure the GC leader was at all times sheltered and in a good position. Averaging a gruesome 10.5% over just 5.7 kilometers, this ferociously steep climb soon made a big selection, only a dozen riders remaining in the front group with three kilometers to go. Masnada was there together with Mauro Schmid, but with a little over two kilometers remaining he began to struggle and lost contact with the group from where Jan Hirt (Intermarche-Wanty Gobert) emerged to take the victory and the leader’s jersey.
The Italian didn’t despair and gave his best to reduce the gap without going into red, and paced by Mauro, who came back strongly from behind to lend him a hand of the savage gradients, finished just outside the top 10 and held onto his spot on the podium, where he now sits second with one day to go.
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