Michael Hepburn Animates Final Stage of Tour of Oman

Mon 24 Feb 2014

The Tour of Oman came to a close in a similar fashion to its start six days earlier as André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) won the field sprint, holding off Nacer Bouhanni ( and Sam Bennet (NetApp-Endura). Jens Keukeleire was the ORICA-GreeEDGE’s top finisher on the Matrah Corniche in eighth place.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) avoided trouble on the final day of racing to secure back-to-back overall victories in the six day stage race. The Kenyon-born Brit moved into the red jersey following his win on the penultimate queen state summit finish. Daryl Impey was best overall for the Australian outfit in 14th place, 1’58 behind Froome.

The final stage was a feisty affair with numerous attacks neutralised before the first breakaway took shape. The move lacked staying power, and the escapees returned to the bunch after the first intermediate sprint. Michael Hepburn and Michael Albasini were part of the ten rider counter-move; however, the peloton considered the breakaway’s size and composition too dangerous. As the attacks continued from behind, the breakaway was brought back to the bunch.

Hepburn slipped the grasp of the peloton yet again and this time took only Christopher Juul Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthCare) for company. The trio led the race onto the finishing circuits on the Matrah Cornich and managed to evade the peloton until the last lap. Lotto Belisol did the bulk of the chase work, only shutting down the breakaway inside the final kilometre.

Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage answer questions about the team’s day below.

Q. What was the team's plan for the stage?

 Because Leigh Howard wasn’t feeling great, we decided to work for Jens Keukeleire in the sprint. 

Q. What was the thought behind putting Michael Hepburn in the break?

All the team did a great job early. Alba [Michael Albasini] and Heppy were in the first breakaway and later Heppy got into the move that stayed almost until the very end. Heppy saved the team. We didn't have to work at all until the finish. It was a great ride by Heppy. All the team did a great job.

Q. What was the team doing during the last lap?

They boys were sitting in second line and waiting to know if the breakaway would come back. With riders with qualities like Heppy you never know what’s possibly. With 20” at five kilometres to go, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be for the breakaway or the sprinters.

Q. How did the sprint unfold from a team perspective?

The boys did a great lead-out for Jens. I think in this kind of sprints Jens got the best result possible. He prefers the finish a bit harder, and this was not a difficult sort of finish.

Q. Rate the week as a whole for the team. What went well? What moments stand out as the most important ones for the team?

Leigh had two second place results in the sprint and spent a day in the leader’s jersey. He was the leader of the young jersey competition for a number of days. Daryl Impey won the bunch kick for fourth place on a very difficult day of racing.

Again, I saw a good team that worked well together and that took responsibility where needed. We saw that they all worked well during the last months, and we’re ready for the bigger goals coming up. We also saw youngsters like Heppy getting better. It’s a good feeling.