• Sonny Colbrelli took a good win at the Tour of Oman. (Getty)Source: Getty
Sonny Colbrelli opened his season account and that of Bahrain-Merida on stage four of the Tour Oman yesterday in what was a nail-biter finale.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
20 Feb 2019 - 7:44 AM  UPDATED 20 Feb 2019 - 9:16 AM

An ecstatic Colbrelli best Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) and Clement Venturini (AG2R La Mondiale) following 131km of undulating terrain on which a three-man escape wasn’t caught until the closing 500 metres.

Speaking via a translator past the finish line in Muscat, the Italian Colbrelli said he was “lucky”.

“Both CCC and Bahrain-Merida helped each other to take the breakaway, and after I sprinted,” he said. “It’s important because it’s the first victory of team Bahrain-Merida, which came here to do a good race. It’s also important for me because it means I’m in a good way to the classics in Belgium and Milan-San Remo.”

Colbrelli knocked on the door of ‘Opening Weekend’ last year, finishing third at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne behind winner Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ). He was ninth at Milan-San Remo and second at Brabantse Pijl behind Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal).

Colbrelli survived four climbs and a fierce pace that CCC set throughout to take the win.

It will surely serve as a further impetus to teammate Domenico Pozzovivo ahead of Wednesday’s queen stage to Green Mountain.

Pozzovivo was within striking distance of the first earnest test for climbers on stage three but punctured with about 13km to go, settling for fifth.

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) retained the race lead.

Second-placed Van Avermaet was satisfied with his pre-classics condition but rued another missed opportunity saying he was too “honest”.

The 2016 Olympic champion finished second to Colbrelli who literally roared across the finish line as he took line honours in a 45-man reduced group sprint.

Van Avermaet has been in the mix the past two days, but it was of little consolation outside the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre where he effectively couldn’t match Colbrelli’s trademark sprinter nerve in the final.

“We had a great plan with the team to put someone in the break and make the race hard, then hopefully drop some of the sprinters to have a big chance for me,” Van Avermaet reflected.

“In the end, there was still a lot of fast guys, but the race was hard enough. In the sprint, I’m just a bit too honest. I left the gap open for another guy [Colbrelli]. Maybe if I closed it, he would have had to come around and it would have been a different story.”

Van Avermaet has been consistent as ever but by comparison, this time last year had claimed a stage and marked a stint in the leader’s jersey in Oman.

He’s not generally been found wanting, having opened his account on season debut at the Tour of Valencia earlier this month but was disappointed yesterday nonetheless. In saying that, the 33-year-old believes he is climbing better, which puts him in good stead for the cobbled classics he is essentially training for.

“Especially uphill I feel a little bit better. It only gives me confidence for the next races but of course, it’s really nice to win, like in Valencia. Second or third, it seems the condition is there, but I’d prefer to win one time instead of having these results on the podium,” he said.