February 18 th 2019 - 13:18 [GMT + 4]
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) doubles up with a second stage victory in a row, after a spectacular day of racing on the way to Qurayyat. The Kazakh champ, who won the race overall last year, was extremely aggressive in the final 50 km, making the most of the wind to wear the peloton before claiming victory and the red jersey in the final climb. The Spanish puncheur Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) came second, ahead of the Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Pro Team).
A pack of 123 riders left Shati Al Qurum without Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data), who was sick. With his golden jersey of leader of the most aggressive rider classification, Preben van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) attacked at km 0. After 3 kilometres, he had managed to form the breakaway of the day with nine companions: Kevin Reza (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels), Julien Duval (AG2R-La Mondiale), Niccolò Bonifazio (Direct Énergie), Evan Huffman (Rally UHC Cycling), Maurits Lammertink and Arjen Livyns (Roompot-Charles), Lukas Spengler (Wallonie Bruxelles), Dani Viejo (Euskadi-Murias) and Piet Allegaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
The gap steadily increased up to 6’30”, until Bahrain-Merida came to set the pace at the front of the bunch along Alexander Kristoff’s UAE Team Emirates after 60 km of racing. Preben van Hecke had already made the most of the first climb of the day and the first intermediate sprint. He also went first at the second intermediate sprint (km 127.5).
Wind, climbs: Lutsenko tackles every challenge
The peloton split 52 km away from the finish, with Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Pro Team) trying to make the most of strong winds and the first ascent of Qurayyat. The red jersey was momentarily dropped. At the front, Niccolò Bonifazio, Piet Allegaert and Preben van Hecke got away in this climb, ahead of a final loop of 42.5 km.
With 35 km to go, a small bunch gets back together, including Kristoff. The gap was down to 2’20”. 10 km further, Van Hecke and Bonifazio were the last riders still ahead of the pack. They were reeled in with 12 km to go and the peloton immediately split again en route to the climb leading to the finish (2.8km at 6.5%).
Dimension Data set a heard pace. Kristoff was dropped with 2 km to go and Lutsenko surged in the final kilometre to snatch the win ahead of Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) and Greg Van Avermaet. The Kazakh is also the new overall leader of the race.