Mark Cavendish ended his Tour of Oman on an angry note, complaining that UAE Team Emirates’ lead-out man Maximiliano Richeze had impeded him after he launched his UAE teammate Fernando Gaviria to victory. Jan Hirt after yesterday’s impressive performance on the Green Mountain secured the win in general classification.
Stage 6 was suited for sprinters, but if teams rode it aggressively, then anything could happen given the reduced squad sizes here. It was not completely flat, with a couple of bigger and smaller hills in the second part of the race that could offer something for the likes of Gesbert and Vauquelin on Arkea-Samsic.
As expected, there were multiple tries from riders in the top 10 of GC hoping to improve their position. The most notable was the attempt from Kevin Vauquelin (6th in GC) and Kevin Vermaerke (11th), who are respectively only 20 and 21 years of age. They attacked with 47 km to go and were caught with 31 km to go when DSM, the team of Vermaerke, tried to split the peloton by pacing hard on the climb. They stretched out the peloton and dropped some riders, including some of the sprinters, but the climb was too short to do major damage.
After the DSM attempt there was chaos and multiple riders attacked again. Later, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team took matters into their own hands and did everything possible to ensure that it would be a sprint finish in stage 6. Quick-Step train worked for Mark Cavendish and the peloton came together – perhaps a reward for Cavendish’ selfless efforts for his climbing teammates after he crashed before green mountain yesterday.
Three kilometers before the finish, the punchy Vauquelin attacked again, and this time Fausto Masnada (2nd in GC) marked him. The leader of the race, Jan Hirt, followed this dangerous attempt.
They were quickly caught but then Søren Kragh Andersen, used this attack to launch himself after what has been a disappointing week for the Dane. BikeExchange – Jayco, pacing for their sprinter Kaden Groves, caught Kragh Andersen with just 500 metres from the finish.
Australian Kaden Groves was in a good position and launched his sprint from the front with 200 meters to go. Fernando Gaviria was not directly on his wheel. He was behind his lead-out man Maximiliano Richeze. Meanwhile, Cavendish was drafting Gaviria. Quick-Step already burned the whole squad before the sprint to control the chaos.
Gaviria overtook Groves and took his 2nd win in Tour of Oman 2022, but the most controversial incident that caused the biggest attention happened behind them. Gaviria’s lead-out man Richeze continued to sprint after his lead-out (which is of course allowed) and deviated from his lane to the right side of the road (not allowed).
In this way he indirectly endangered Cavendish, who had no choice but to stop sprinting if he did not want to risk the possibility of crashing into the barriers like Fabio Jakobsen in the infamous Tour de Pologne stage 1 in 2020.
Surprisingly (given the UCI commissaire’s ambivalence to such moves in the past) Richeze after the stage was not just relegated to last position but disqualified. In this case, the punishment has almost no practical effect. Gaviria still retains his stage win and given that this was the last stage, there is no stage tomorrow that Richeze cannot start in due to his disqualification. We have noticed that the UCI has been stricter on deviations and misconduct in sprints in this early season. Barbara Guarischi was relegated for her deviation in Valencia whilst Nizzolo was docked UCI points for a headbutt last week. Whether this newfound emphasis on sprint misconduct continues during the biggest races, we are not sure. It is one thing to disqualify Richeze on the last stage of Tour of Oman, it is another to disqualify Quick-step’s last man in the first week of the Tour de France, even for moves that are much more egregious.
Mørkøv even closed another superstar, Peter Sagan, to the barriers in the Tour de France last year, with Sagan also angrily remonstrating with him, but received no sanction.
Given that there was no crash here, it is somewhat amusing to see ex-Quick-Step riders like Richeze pulling the same tricks on Quick-Step in sprints that he presumably learnt at Quick-Step, whilst Mørkøv continues to be the master of them to this day.
Jan Hirt won the general classification and earned 200 much needed UCI points for Intermarché. This is the biggest win in the Czech climber’s career so far and he will be a man to watch on Jebel Hafeet in the UAE Tour next week.
The biggest surprise and discovery of Tour of Oman was 20-year-old Kevin Vauquelin from Arkea-Samsic, who showed great climbing, especially on stage 3 and 5, and was not afraid to attack in other stages. Definitely he will do more great performances in the near future and will be one to watch if he lines up in the hilly french semi-classics of Faun-Ardeche and Bernard Drome later this month.
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