With nearly perfect conditions for climbing and high w/kg performances, it was inevitable that we would see huge watts on Jabal Al Akhdhar by multiple riders. Mauri Vansevanant, despite winning the stage, lost GC by a mere second to the American Matteo Jorgenson. Both rider’s contracts end after this season.
It was an easy day for riders in the peloton before the nasty Jabal Al Akhdar (5.7km, 10%) climb. One of the favourites for the stage win Rein Taaramäe did only 2387 kilojoules for 3:39h with an average heart rate of 106. With less than 10 kJ/kg/h GC contenders definitely had fresh legs at the base of the climb.
The conditions for high w/kg performances were perfect as Intermarche – Circus – Wanty paced very hard at the bottom of Jabal Al Akhdar. Taaramäe did 499 watts for the first 2:41 minutes of the climb, averaging 20 km/h on a 10.7% gradient. The Intermarche guys were doing their best to set as hard pace as possible. Lightweight Louis Meintjes was perfect for the 10% gradients and did the last pull for team leader Taaramäe, reducing the group to a select group of riders.
After all the domestiques were used, Taaramäe did not accelerate but continued to hold a steady pace, pushing around 450-460 watts, which is very close to 7 w/kg. It was enough to drop Cian Uijtdebroeks, Alexey Lutsenko and other GC contenders. But the stage 3 winner Matteo Jorgenson, Mauri Vansevenant and Geoffrey Bouchard were able to hold on, the latter of whom seems to perform well in easy desert races with a final w/kg test.
Taaramäe’s pace was not high enough to drop anyone who was left in the first group. The Estonian was in great shape after his Rwanda high-altitude camp. Last year Taaramäe was working for Jan Hirt and pulled for him on Jabal Al Akhdar. This year Hirt, now a Soudal-Quick Step rider, was not anywhere near his 2022 Tour of Oman level. Despite pulling the other GC favourites, the Estonian was dropped once Bouchard accelerated. The GC situation was close and bonus seconds could have decided the overall winner too. Vansevanant was only 5 seconds back to Jorgenson, while Bouchard was at 14 seconds.
In the end, Vansevenant was good enough to win the stage ahead of Jorgenson, despite being boxed in with a few hundred metres remaining. However he did not create enough of a gap between him and the Movistar talent, which meant the Jorgenson won the Tour of Oman by 1 second. It was his first pro-GC win and second pro-win ever. Jorgenson performed exceptionally well on steep gradients in the Tour of Oman and his contract is ending this year with Movistar. The 23-year-old American will be a hot target in the free agent market after his consistent 2022 performances and the great start of 2023.
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Vansevenant and Jorgenson broke Rafael Valls climbing record by 16 seconds. Valls in 2015 climbed Green Mountain in 18:28 min, pushing an estimated 6.62 ᵉw/kg. Chris Froome in 2014 did Jabal Al Akhdhar in 18:33 min. Both Jorgenson and Vansevenant did 6.74 ᵉw/kg for 18:12 min. Bouchard also was faster than the previous record.
Both Jorgenson and Vansevenant’s performances are above the yellow Grand Tour winner’s trendline. Does this mean they can win a Grand Tour in 2023? The climbing conditions were perfect. Low altitude climb, steep, steady pace, low kilojoules before the climb and relatively fresh legs. Everyone in the GC group did one of the best performances in their career at least by pure w/kg standards. Nonetheless it is very impressive and will be interesting to follow in 2023 how these riders will perform on climbs on harder races.
Even Cian Uijtdebroeks at 19 years old did a good performance, finishing tenth and losing 72 seconds to the fastest riders. Three riders did surpass the yellow Grand Tour winner's trendline and seven the Grand Tour Top 10 trendline, which is also high performance and not easy to achieve in a race. This is a February race and not everyone was in their peak shape and some of the riders from the Top 10 might do bigger performances later in the season. It is definitely not a step back for Uijtdebroeks, who might be capable of more later in the season.
Kārlis Ozols (@CyclingGraphs)