Ben Hermans put in a commanding performance on stage 2 of the 2017 Tour of Oman to win the first uphill stage of the race and move into the overall lead with four stages remaining.
The 145.5km stage featured four climbs and was the first battle of the General Classification contenders with a short but steep finish on the Al Jissah climb.
It was a battle for a breakaway to go clear in the first hour with the peloton flying at 50km/hr. Two riders, Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport) and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), eventually broke away and established an advantage of more than seven minutes.
The peloton began the chase with 60km to go and the catch was made 20km before the finish line, which allowed further attacks to play out.
Only half of the peloton was left as the group approached the finish, and it was Hermans and Greg Van Avermaet who were in the selection on the final climb.
Van Avermaet attacked with 1.5km to go, was then overtaken by Merhawi Kudus (Dimension-Data), attacked again, and then made way for Hermans to make a push for the line and win convincingly ahead of Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team).
Hermans has a four-second lead on the General Classification over Costa and is six seconds ahead of Fuglsang.
The Winner’s Interview with Ben Hermans
Ben, congratulations! How did the finale play out?
“We did as the team asked us. We had a plan to attack with Greg Van Avermaet and he saw his moment when we tried to just ride at tempo in the middle of the climb. Then he countered Kudus but Kudus was really explosive and fast, so when I saw Greg came back I tried. It was still 300m to go but I knew I would only have one chance if I made it a very long sprint and not too explosive, and it worked out well.”
Were you targeting this stage in particular?
“I wasn’t thinking about the stage until yesterday. I knew the climb from 2015 when I attacked straight from the bottom when Tejay van Garderen and Greg were leaders, and I made it with the first guys on the top. So I knew this climb was perfect for me. But I didn’t expect to win.”
What are your thoughts on the rest of the race?
“It’s a hard race. The next three days will be hard again and we have to be in the front all of the time. It will not be easy for the team to control the race, and now all of the other teams will look at us. We can’t do anything else but control so we will see how it works out. ”
“The race has not finished today. I think there are 10 or 15 riders who are favorites for the race. The Green Mountain climb is totally different from today.”
Valerio Piva, Sports Director
“We know that Greg Van Avermaet is good here every year. It’s difficult to finish here on the climb, instead of the downhill, so we said that Greg was our leader and Ben Hermans was a protected rider. We knew that Ben was in great shape. We wanted to jump in the attacks at the beginning of the stage because it was chaos. We didn’t start chasing because then you have the responsibility all day.”
“When we arrived at the 3km to go mark the plan was to lead out Ben and Greg, and Ben’s plan was to jump behind the climbers and attack. Greg made a move and they chased him back, and then Ben made a perfect move. We are happy and the whole team worked well today. We have the jersey so we will defend it. The finish on Green Mountain is also a climb for Ben but of course, we have some of the best climbers in the world here. Stage 3 is also a good stage for Greg so we have options.”