Key points :
The Sultanate of Oman will be welcoming the elite of world cycling for the 10th edition of the Tour of Oman, a favourite race for the perennial spring classics specialists. Among them, sprinters such as Nasser Bouhanni, André Greipel and Bryan Coquard will try to distinguish themselves, but also to do battle on more demanding finishes with Alexander Kristoff and Greg van Avermaet.
Traditionally, the climb up Jabal Al Akhdhar (the “Green Mountain”) proves to be decisive in the fight for the title. It should be an ideal playing ground for climbers like Domenico Pozzovivo or Mathias Frank.
There is an ambiance of a return to business in Oman, despite the summer temperatures that will welcome the riders between 16th and 21st February. At this stage of the season, nobody has yet attached their first race numbers nor worn their new jersey in a competitive context for those who have changed team. Be that as it may, the reflexes are still a bit rusty but the winter preparation is well and truly over. It is time to get to the heart of the matter, namely direct confrontation between rivals who will be battling to be the best throughout the year. On the Tour of Oman, the struggle will see all types of riders involved, whether they are more inclined to shining on the spring classics, specialists of stage wins on grand tours or pretenders for general classification triumphs on week-long races, or longer.
The Tour of Oman, appreciated for its alternation between flat and hilly finishes, will put the cream of the sprinting clan in the spotlight from the first stage on the Suhar Corniche and without a doubt at the end of the race on the Matrah Corniche. These seaside finishes should give rise to tough clashes between Nacer Bouhanni, André Greipel, Bryan Coquard and Sonny Colbrelli. However, the riders will have to display a different type of power on the undulating routes leading to Al Bustan (stage 2) and Qurayyat (stage 3). Alexander Kristoff, who boasts the most stage wins in Oman with 8 victories in 9 participations, will be one of the men to watch, as will Greg van Avermaet, who will be looking to improve his roll of honour in preparation for his campaign in Flanders. Nonetheless, the two favourites could be left in the wake of Gasparotto, Magnus Cort-Nielsen or, should the race take a slightly different turn, Niki Terpstra, Oliver Naesen or Nathan Haas. As is often the case, the “Green Mountain” is likely to be crucial in the battle for the title, the day before the race comes to its conclusion. The 5.7-km climb will be the steepest of the week (with an average gradient of 10.5%) and could be used as a springboard to triumph by a climber such as Domenico Pozzovivo, Mathias Frank or Jesus Herrada. However, the winning ticket might also go to the title holder Alexey Lutsenko if, like in last year’s success, he contents himself with keeping with the pace on this climber’s test.
18 teams: the main participants
Bahrain-Merida: Pozzovivo, Colbrelli (Ita)
Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team: De Clercq (Bel), Minaard (Nld)
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Capiot, Van Hecke (Bel)
Wallonie Bruxelles: B. Planckaert, Dehaes (Bel)
AG2R La Mondiale: Frank, Dillier (Che), Naesen (Bel)
Cofidis, Solutions crédits: Bouhanni (Fra), Jes. Herrada (Esp)
Direct Energie: Petit (Fra), Terpstra (Nld)
Team Arkea-Samsic: B. Feillu (Fra), Greipel (Deu)
Vital Concept-B&B Hotels: Coquard, Reza (Fra)
Delko Marseille Provence: Moreno (Esp), Jones (Aus)
Astana Pro Team: Lutsenko (Kaz), Cort-Nielsen (Dnk)
Roompot-Charles: Lammertink, Van Poppel (Nld)
CCCTeam: Van Avermaet, Van Keirsbulck (Bel)
Team Dimension Data: Gasparotto (Ita), Slagter (Nld)
Euskadi Basque Country-Murias: Bizkarra, Aristi (Spa)
Team Katusha Alpecin: Haas (Aus), Boswell (Usa)
United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: Kristoff (Nor), Costa (Prt), Laengen (Nor)
Rally UHC Cycling: Huffman, McNulty (Usa)