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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, February 19, 2017

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Ben Hermans wins Tour of Oman queen stage to extend race lead

Here's what Hermans' BMC team had to say about the stage:

18 February, 2017, Jabal Al Akhdhar (OMAN)

Ben Hermans put in a spectacular show on the Green Mountain summit of the Tour of Oman to take the win and all but wrap up the race victory. The Queen stage of the six-day race saw the peloton tackle 146km of flat terrain before the final 6km summit of Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain).

A five-rider breakaway established a solid advantage of eight minutes and Hermans' BMC Racing Team teammates spent the day controlling the race behind. With 50km remaining, the teams eyeing the stage win started to pull the breakaway back and at the base of the climb the gap was down to two minutes.

BMC Racing Team reached the base of the climb first with Michael Schaer setting the pace in the first kilometer, followed by Daniel Oss, who kicked in with 4km to go. By the time Greg Van Avermaet finished the next pull the peloton was down to a select group of General Classification contenders.

Attacks from the group first came from Lachlan Morton and Merhawi Kudus (Team Dimension Data), followed by Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), but Hermans launched the winning attack to overtake Kudus and Bardet and win by three seconds from Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team).

Ben Hermans

Ben Hermans wins Oman Tour stage 5

Hermans' win gives him a 22-second lead on the General Classification and also sees him regain the lead in the Sprint Classification with one stage remaining.

The Winner's Interview with Ben Hermans

Congratulations Ben! Is this the biggest victory of your career?

"Against the riders that I faced here today, yes I think so."

How did it play out in the final two kilometers?

"It was really hard. It was hard for everyone of course. Fabio Aru was just behind me at ten of fifteen meters so it was really fast right until the line. Kudus attacked and he was just ten seconds in front of me but I still had a good effort in my legs. I was afraid that the others might come back but in the end it was ok.

This morning did you think that you could win?

After the victory on the second stage I had the confidence, and also the sprint for the bonus seconds on the last climb yesterday also gave the confidence for today. Normally, it is just a mechanical problem that could kill me tomorrow so it's a nice feeling to be in this position."

The entire BMC Racing Team has worked incredibly hard all week. What do you say about that?

"It is such a hard job for the guys to pull in the front here on the big, wide roads with lots of wind. It was a tremendous job from the guys and I really appreciate their work which is also why I wanted to win the stage today.

What are your thoughts before the final stage?

"It will be my first GC win. We still have to do one stage of course, but without bad luck I will win the overall. It's a big step forward for me and I'm really happy that I can finish the work of the team. I never expected to have this kind of start to the year in Valencia and here in Oman. I just wanted top tens in those races and now I have finished second in Valencia and will normally win this race so it's the perfect situation.

Valerio Piva, Sports Director: "Of course, we started in the morning to defend the jersey and Ben was motivated for that. He believed in his ability and his capacity, and I did too. The dream was to have a podium but you also have to dream of winning and you need to believe it. Ben is in the shape of his life. He started the season three or four kilograms lighter than last year and already in Valencia he was strong."

"Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was, for me, the favorite for the stage. Ben was confident at the start of the stage. He already had the victory from stage 2 which does a lot for the confidence. I am very happy for him because when he has the chance he always tries but a lot of times he has finished second. This is a nice victory for him. He had an amazing team around him today and every other day. The whole day we controlled the race. It is a victory for Ben, but for sure it's the work of the entire team."

Primoz Roglic retains Algarve’s overall lead

Roglic's LottoNL-Jumbo team sent me this report:

Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to third in the Volta ao Algarve’s fourth stage behind winner Andre Greipel. LottoNL-Jumbo team-mate Primoz Roglic finished 18th in the group and kept the overall lead in Tavira.

andre Greipel

André Greipel wins the stage

"I have enough power and my speed is good. It sucks that it just does not work out," said Groenewegen, who was just a few centimetres short of the win. "In the last corner, I was too excited to try to get by Greipel. I should not do that, it failed and I lost some speed. I started the sprint a few bike lengths behind him. I still was close, which indicates that I'm fine. To retain the leader’s jersey for Primoz was more important today. We controlled the pack and so you miss those guys in the sprint. At such a time, you have to deal with it differently. My lead-out man Robert Wagner got a flat tyre, which made my final even harder."

“Our plan was to pay attention to which riders escaped and control the race. Doing so, you already put men on the front who you are going to miss in the final”, sports director Frans Maassen added. “Halfway through the race, the sprint teams began to deal with the breakaway. We didn’t participate in that phase. It’s too bad that Wagner ran flat. Maybe he could have made the difference in Dylan falling a few centimetres at the line."

Roglic remains the leader with 22 seconds on Michal Kwiatkowski. "The team controlled the race. “It’s not an easy task, but we succeeded. Tomorrow, we should do the same and keep the jersey."

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