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Kittel kicks to win; Velits wraps overall at Oman

Velits atop the podium. Photo courtesy Omega Pharma-Quick Step/Tim de Waele

Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i) kicked to his second stage win during the weeklong Tour of Oman to prove he’s going to be a force to contend with this year.

Already a winner in stage 3 as well as at a stage at the Etoile de Besseges, the big German fended off some elite company in Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) to snag the win.

Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) held on to secure the overall despite efforts by Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) to claim time bonuses on the road.

Velits defended a slender one-second lead in the sixth and final stage to win the first pro-level stage race of his career.

Nibali tried in vain to secure bonuses, including finishing fourth in a midrace hot sprint, and ended up second by just one second. The Italian was happy to have won Saturday’s climbing stage in what was his first win in more than a year.

“It’s a great day, one of the best in my career,” Velits said after crossing the finish line. “During the race there was only a moment of panic when Nibali seemed to have gotten second place behind Boonen during the intermediate sprint. Luckily it was just a mistake in getting numbers from radio information and the momentary fear quickly dissipated.

“It’s my first win in a stage race, I am very happy. It’s a great beginning to the season, even though I’m aware the big races are stillto come. What’s most important, though, is my state of form,” Velits said. “Compared to the past, I have changed my approach to the season and I can see the results. It will be important to go on like this and keep growing race after race. My next race will be Tirreno-Adriatico, a very important race in which I wish to do well. Tonight, though, I just want to celebrate this win with the whole team, to whom I dedicate this success. I wouldn’t have been able to win without their help.”

Velits’ victory is the 13th of the road season for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, nearly double the team’s entire haul during the 2011 season.

“It’s very satisfying for our team,” said sports director Wilfried Peeters. “We’ve already won three stage races since the beginning of the season, we’ve had a total 17 wins (3 in cyclocross, 1 on track, 13 on road) from January to today, with seven different cyclists. On the road we won with five different athletes, proving that the work we did and the training programs we followed during the winter paid off.

“We’re coming back from the trip to Qatar and Oman with a really rich reward, the best results we ever had,” he continued. “We now must continue with the same spirit in the next few races, with the goal of being among the protagonists in the most important races that will take place in March and April.”

Tony Gallopin gave RadioShack-Nissan-Trek a spot on the final podium with third overall.

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