It was to be the highlight of the Tour of Oman and indeed it was. In the final part of stage 4, on the climb up Jabal Al Akhdhar, the battle between the best riders in the world was breathtaking. After a harsh fight, Joaquim «Purito» Rodriguez claimed his first success in Oman while Christopher Froome, second, captured the overall leadership and therefore, the Red Jersey.
Stage 4: Al Saltiyah in Samail â€“ Jabal AL Akhdhar, 143kms
142 riders at the start: Sunny, light wind
Before the start of what was expected to be the toughest stage of the Tour of Oman, there were some tense faces and the smiling one of birthday boy Cadel Evans, 36. Just after noon, 142 riders took off from Al Saltiyah in Samail for a demanding 143km ride to Jabal Al Akhdhar, also known as the Green Mountain.
Despite an extremely fast start, five men managed to break away at km 11: Bookwalter (BMC), Rast (RLT), Smukulis (KAT), Schillinger (TNE) and Friedemann (CSS). The leading five enjoyed a light tailwind and covered 44.6kms during the first hour. At km 46, the first intermediate sprint (km 46) was claimed by Schillinger ahead of Friedemann and Rast, while the pack led by riders from Saxo-Tinkoff, Sky and Astana remained 4'25 adrift.
The pack remained within shooting distance of the breakaway riders and the gap slowly dropped down. At the second bonus sprint just before the final climb (km 132), won by Friedemann in front of Rast and Smukulis, the pack remained 1'05 adrift. The leading five were finally caught at km 136.
In the first moments of the climb up Jabal Al Akhdhar, the battle between the top guns started. While Red Jersey Peter Sagan and Bradley Wiggins (SKY) were rapidly dropped, Alberto Contador (TST) powered away. Maybe too early. He was eventually to be caught by team mate Hernandez, Nibali (AST), and Porte (SKY) with 4.5kms to go. In the final 3 kilometres, 8 men gathered together at the front: Froome (SKY), Evans (BMC), Contador, Nibali, Rodriguez (KAT), Elissonde, Jeannesson (both FDJ), Nocentini (ALM) and Tschopp (IAM). Just before the last kilometre, Rodriguez managed to take off. He was never to be caught and captured a fine win ahead of Froome by 4â€ť, Evans by 22â€ť and Contador by 27â€ť.
Froome captures the overall leadership with a 24â€ť advantage over Evans and 25â€ť over Contador, and will therefore be wearing the Red Jersey on tomorrow's 5th stage. Peter Sagan remains the leader of the points' classification while Kenny Elissonde, 6th of the stage, is now the best young rider (White Jersey).