Cycling

Belgian Hermans flying high in Oman

Ben Hermans (Getty)
Ben Hermans (Getty)

Jebel Al Akhdar - Belgium's Ben Hermans maintained his Tour of Oman lead with Saturday's success in the fifth and penultimate mountain stage.

After this summit finish win on the Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) 5.7 climb, the RMC rider has a 22 second cushion over nearest rival Rui Costa going into Sunday's closing stage.

Hermans was followed across the finish line by Italian Fabio Aru at 3sec and Portugal's Rui Costa at 11sec on the day.

The 30-year-old has brought his good early season form to Oman after his second in last month's Tour of Valencia.

In Saturday's stage he dominated the specialist climbers up a six minute final climb with an average gradient of 10.5% over the final 2,000 metres to the summit finish.

"After my win on Wednesday (in the second stage) I was confident but it was tough going, even in the last few kilometres I wasn't able to get away from Fabio Aru who was always only 10 or 20 metres behind me."

"When you look at the riders who came in behind me this has got to be the best win of my career."

One of the main challengers for overall victory, France's Romain Bardet saw his prospects take a hit after failing to mount a serious challenge for the day's honours.

Bardet, second in last year's Tour de France, remained sixth overall at 1min 17sec with all realistic hope of winning gone.

There are two climbs on Sunday's 130km run with Aru still a potential danger for the leader>

Results of the Tour of Oman 152 kilometre fifth stage between Sama and the Jabal Al Akhdhar summit on Saturday:

1. Ben Hermans (BEL/BMC) 4hr 08min 46sec, 2. Fab io Aru (ITA) at 3sec, 3. Rui Costa (POR) 11, 4. Giovanni Visconti (ITA) 27, 5. Merhawi Kudus (EYR) 27, 6. Tsgabu Grmay (ETH) 34, 7. Lachlan Morton (AUS) 38, 8. Mathias Frank (SUI) 41, 9. Nathan Haas (AUS) 44, 10. Romain Bardet (FRA) 44.

Overall

1. Ben Hermans (BEL/BMC) 17hr 59min 17sec, 2. Rui Costa (POR) at 22sec, 3. Fabio Aru (ITA) 35, 4. Merhawi Kudus (ERY) 58, 5. Tsgabu Grmay (ETH) 1:12, 6. Romain Bardet (FRA) 1:17, 7. Mathias Frank (SUI) 1:19, 8. Lachlan Morton (AUS) 1:21, 9. Giovanni Visconti (ITA) 1:33, 10. Nathan Haas (AUS) 1:38.

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