Getty Images

Cycling news - Last year’s race winner Alexey Lutsenko takes Stage 2

Last year’s race winner Lutsenko takes Stage 2

18/02/2019 at 01:47Updated 18/02/2019 at 03:10

Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko claims first win in just second start of the season, while opening stage winner Alexander Kristoff rallies to maintain race lead …

Sunday was never expected to be easy along the coast of the Persian Gulf, and the 10th Tour of Oman (UCI 2.HC) did not disappoint as 124 riders felt the heat under the scorching sun and over the four short, but sharp, climbs of the 156.5-kilometre stage from Royal Cavalry Oman to Al Bustan.

After reeling in the sole remnant of a four-rider break, Belgian Preben van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise) with 16km remaining, last year’s overall race winner Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacked on the final climb to cross the line alone and claim the Stage 2 win — his first victory in just his second day of racing for the season.

"I was motivated for this stage as I knew it suits me quite well,” explained Lutsenko. "Last year I was third here, so I knew a stage win was possible. I attacked on the last climb and on the top, I already gained an advantage of 15 seconds. I continued pushing hard, also my sports director led me through the last kilometres, giving me great motivation. The final 2km were hard, but I've managed to keep my advantage until the end.

"I am really happy with my win,” he continued. "I came to this race with a goal to win at least a stage. So, it’s nice that I achieved this goal already."

“It was a hard final, of course, I knew it before,” said Kristoff, who finished ahead of eventual “best young rider” Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data), 24, in third. “Usually every year I’m dropped, and this year I was dropped also but I was not very far away and managed to come back alone.

“Unfortunately Lutsenko was too strong,” continued the former winner of Flanders and Milan-San Remo. “He kept away with a very nice attack and I just had to try to take second — and I managed. I’m happy with the result, but of course, I would like to win.”

The race leader holds a three-second advantage over Lutsenko on general classification, with Gibbons third overall 12 seconds adrift. Kristoff also sits atop the points classification with a 12-point lead over the 26-year-old Kazakh.

Monday’s queen stage could shake up the GC as it presents the longest day in the saddle (192.5km) and a punishing hilltop finish in Qurayyat.

“Tomorrow’s stage suits me as well, but, of course, there are a lot of riders who can do well tomorrow,” said Lutsenko. "We will see. Of course, the race will be played on the Green Mountain, this is a very hard climb. I hope to have legs for this climb. I did a very good training camp together with my team on Teide, so I’m hopeful."