Spanish climbing specialist Rafael Valls experienced the greatest moment by far of his career in winning the Tour of Oman on Sunday as Matthias Brandle of Austria clinched the sixth and final stage. Valls, who seized control in winning the feature stage of the race, the climb to the Green Mountain on Friday, had a nine-second advantage over American Tejay van Garderen, while another Spaniard, the experienced Alejandro Valverde, was third overall, 19 seconds adrift. Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali scraped into the top 20, more than three minutes off the pace. For 27-year-old Valls it ended several years of angst and self-doubt over whether he would ever prove himself at the highest level.
“These have been three dream days, and this is the apotheosis,” said Valls, who was succeeding Britain’s 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome, the winner of the previous two editions of the race but who didn’t compete this year.
“It is a reward for the past four or five difficult years that I have experienced. I have proved to myself that I can ride at the level I had before. It gives me a lot of confidence,” added Valls, whose only previous victory was a stage in the Tour of San Luis five years ago.
In the stage itself, Brandle went clear of three other breakaway riders in the final stretch along the Matrah corniche to finish four seconds clear of Belgian Iljo Keisse with the latter’s compatriot Jef Van Meiraghe third, 13 seconds off the pace. Saturday’s fifth stage had been cancelled due to poor weather.
1. Matthias Brandle (AUT/IAM) 03h 02min 31sec
2. Iljo Keisse (BEL/EQS) at 04s
3. Jef Van Meirhaeghe (BEL/TSV) 13
4. Danny Pate (USA) 16
5. Peter Sagan (SVK/TCS) 1:16
6. Ramon Sinkeldam (DEN/TGA) s.t.
7. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/COF) s.t.
8. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) s.t.
9. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ/AST) s.t.
10. Sam Bennett (IRL/BOA) s.t.
1. Rafael Valls (ESP/LAM) 21hr 09min 31sec
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) at 09s
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 19.
4. Rafal Majka (POL/TCS) 32
5. Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA/MTN) 01:04
6. Louis Meintjes (RSA/MTN) 01:08
7. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/AST) 01:10
8. Ben Hermans (BEL/BMC) 01:15
9. Julian Arredondo (COL/TFR) 01:25
10. Patrick Konrad (AUT/BOA) 01:36