Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) took the sprint at the end of stage two of the 2012 Tour of Oman in Wadi Dayqah Dam on Wednesday. The victory is the Slovak’s first of the 2012 season.
Australian sprinter Baden Cooke (GreenEdge) placed second, with Dutchman Tom Jelte Slagter (Rabobank) in third.
Sagan relieves stage one winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) of the overall lead.
Mark Cavendish (Sky) did not contest the sprint as he dropped back on the final climb toward the finish.
Peter the prodigy
The sport’s first big name to be born in the 1990s, Sagan has already collected twenty-one race wins. Bunch sprints, one-day and stage races, hill-top finishes: all fall to the stocky Slovak.
Not since Frank Vandenbroucke have we seen such early proflicness and prodigy, a comparison that reminds burnout and bad decisions could lurk around the corner.
Yet explosive Sagan is an undemonstrative character rather than a party boy, a winning machine in the Indurain mould.
Having taken it all in his stride so far, it will be intriguing to see how he fares in the sport’s biggest races.
The Slovakian champion’s big potential will be tested next month at Milan-San Remo, where he could give Cavendish and company a headache, and the Tour of Flanders, as well as at an expected Tour de France debut, the next steps on his carefully-crafted career path.
Such is his versatility, Philippe Gilbert has also talked of him as a rider who is ready to win the Amstel Gold Race this year.
Sagan is also a foil for Vincenzo Nibali, the Sicilian who hopes to win the overall in Oman. He was one of the first favourites across the line, finishing thirteenth at nine seconds.
“It wasn’t really a finish for me, so I’m very happy about Peter’s win,” Nibali said.
Sagan’s waiting game
There was an unorthodox start to the day: a two-hour boat transfer to the start in Sur. The Sea of Man was a bit choppy, and several unfortunate riders were spotted looking pale, struggling to find their sea legs.
Back on dry land, the day’s four man breakaway – Martin Kohler (BMC Racing), Klaas Lodewijck (BMC Racing), David Boucher (FDJ-BigMat) and Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini) – was reprised inside the tricky final ten kilometres up to the Wadi Dayqah Dam.
A succession of steep climbs and corkscrewing descents – imagine a cluster of Liege-Bastogne-Liege climbs – offered little respite or chance for the thoroughbred sprinters before a steep 800-metre incline and brief flattening before the finish.
Team Sky drove for Chris Sutton; Andre Greipel hung around in hope of a tough sprint win. Another Slovakian Peter – Velits, of Omega Pharma-Quick Step – put in a late dig.
But Sagan had the measure of his rivals, delivering his own searing acceleration for victory.
“I saw Greipel was around, and I also went quite early. I’m very happy to win,” Sagan said at the finish, in the shadow of the stunning Al Hajar mountains.
Tour of Oman 2012, stage two: Surto Wadi Dayqah Dam, 140.5km
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale in 3-10-44
2. Baden Cooke (Aus) GreenEdge
3. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan
5. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda
6. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
7. Chris Sutton (Aus) Sky
8. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) RadioShack-Nissan at same time
9. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan at 4 secs
10. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol at same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
2. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol at 4 secs
3. Baden Cooke (Aus) GreenEdge at 7 secs
4. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank at 9 secs
5. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 10 secs
6. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan at 10 secs
7. Chris Sutton (Aus) Sky at 10 secs
8. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) RadioShack-Nissan at 13 secs
9. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda at 13 secs
10. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan at 17 secs
David Boucher heads the escape group
Peter Sagan wins the stage
Peter Sagan in the leader’s jersey
Tour of Oman 2012: Stage reports
Stage one: Greipel wins Oman opener
Tour of Oman 2012: Preview and coverage index