The queen-stage of the Middle East race helped the Italian jump two places in the general classification.
Iljo Keisse was among the 10 riders to go into the escape on Friday, in the toughest day of the Tour of Oman, at the end of which the peloton was due to tackle the gruelling Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) climb. Alongside Keisse – winner of the final stage at the 2015 Giro d'Italia – also Simone Antonini (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida), Berden De Vries (Roompot Oranje), Daniel Oss (BMC), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Argon 18), Michael Reihs (Stölting Service Group), Stijn Steels (Topsport Vlaanderen), Robin Stenuit (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Bradley White (UnitedHealthcare) had a go and formed the day's break, which stayed at the front until the first slopes of the last climb.
On the Green Mountain, Eduardo Sepulvada (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) attacked from afar and good a 20-second gap, but it proved to be just dust in the wind when Vincenzo Nibali accelerated. The Italian rider of Astana left Romain Bardet (AG2R) and teammate Jakob Fuglsang behind, before joining the Argentinian and distancing him too. In the final kilometer, Sepulveda succumbed and couldn't hang to his podium place, while Nibali got out victorious of the stage and climbed to the top step of the general classification, having 15 seconds over Bardet with two days left to go.
Starting the stage in 12th place, Gianluca Brambilla was aware he needs a strong ride to make a jump in the overall standings, and that's exactly what he did on the demanding ascent, showing the same form and resilience he displayed since the beginning of the season. The relentless Italian finished 1:29 behind the stage winner, and as a result he is now 10th in the standings, at his first participation in the Tour of Oman.
"It was very hard today, not only because of the double-digit climb, but also due to the heat, which made me suffer a lot, especially in the last kilometers. My teammates were very important and I have to thank them for their help. I am happy with my result and I will try to keep my top 10 on Saturday, when another tough day awaits", said the 28-year-old Italian from Bellano.
Stage 5 will be the last crucial one of this year's edition. The peloton will start from Yiti and will then travel along coastal roads, before going twice over the Al Jissah ascent. The final 50 kilometers will bring a circuit, which is going to witness the riders climb three times Bousher Al Amerat, a 3.4 km-long hill that has sections of 8.8%. The ascent can be used as a launch pad for an attack to shake up the general classification, especially as from the top there's less than 15 kilometers left until the finish at the Ministry of Tourism.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele