Howard gets maiden pro victory in Oman as Boasson Hagen gets caught out in the wind
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Howard gets maiden pro victory in Oman as Boss Hogg gets caught out in the wind

by Ben Atkins at 12:54 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results

Australian Leigh Howard (HTC-Columbia) won a bunch sprint at the end of another windy Oman stage to take the first victory of his professional career. The 20-year-old beat the far more experienced Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) into second and third.

"I'd only ridden one previous race with the pros, the Tour of Ireland last year, so to come here and beat some of the top guys in the peloton is an amazing feeling," said Howard. "I'd been working for Bernie [Eisel] all week, but today with about 30 kilometres to go after the split had happened, I told him I was feeling really strong. He took me to about 500 metres to go to the finish and I went for it. I think it being a smaller group of riders like at today's finish was an advantage for me because I'm not so used to the big bunch sprints. That should come in the future."

Howard had not been feeling too well earlier in the race, but "today was different,” he said. “Some of my teammates were caught out when the split happened and the front group got away, but we powered across the gap in about a kilometre. After that, I felt confident I could go for the win."

After a plane and bus transfer across the country from Muscat to the start in Ibri, and to make things worse a delayed start, six riders formed the inevitable breakaway across the windy desert course. The group was made up of Joaquin Novoa Menendez (Cervélo TestTeam), Nicolaï Trussov (Katusha), Gatis Smukulis (AG2R-La Mondiale), Arnoud Van Groen (Vacansoleil), Cyril Lemoine (Saur-Sojasun) and Ben King (Trek-Livestrong). The sextet managed to increase its lead to 6’55” by the first intermediate sprint after 45.5km.

With Smukulis sitting fifth on the overnight general classification though, the break was never going to be allowed to stay clear, and Team Sky began to reel them in for their race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen.

As the break was caught a group of 41 riders detached from the front of the peloton, reportedly while Boasson Hagen had stopped for a natural break. The Norwegian saw the gap grow to over a minute with 10km to go, and saw his race lead go with it.

As well as Howard and Bennati, the front group also contained sprinters Tyler Farrar and Robbie Hunter (both Garmin-Transitions) and Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia) but the World Omnium champion proved the fastest.

With Boasson Hagen losing 1’05” on the stage, yesterday’s winner Bennati moves into the race lead with two stages to go.

Result stage 4
1. Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-Columbia
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
3. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
4. Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervélo TestTeam
5. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions
6. Styn Vandenbergh (Bel) Katusha
7. Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
8. Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing
9. Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing
10. Robert Hunter (SA) Garmin-Transitions

Standings after stage 4
1. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
2. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions
3. Gatis Smukulis (Lat) AG2R-La Mondiale


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