Rafael Valls says his victory in the Tour of Oman is a "dream," a reward for several tough years that gives him confidence

MUSCAT, Oman (AFP) — Spanish climbing specialist Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida) experienced the greatest moment of his career in winning the Tour of Oman on Sunday as Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) clinched the sixth and final stage.

Valls, who seized control after winning the feature stage of the race, the climb to Green Mountain on Friday, finished with a nine-second advantage over American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was third overall, 19 seconds adrift.

Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished in 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 succeeded 2013 Tour champ Chris Froome, the winner of the previous two editions of the race, 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.”

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 Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quick-Step) with Jef Van Meiraghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) third, 13 seconds off the pace.

Organizers canceled Saturday’s fifth stage after severe heat and a sandstorm triggered a protest by riders.