Bryan Coquard takes the early race lead after claiming the bunch sprint on the opening day of the 2018 Tour of Oman

Despite a chaotic final Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) battled through to bag his first win of the season at the opening stage of the Tour of Oman.

The Vital Concept rider crossed the line a bike length ahead of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Trek-Segafredo’s Giacomo Nizzolo, the Briton forced to start his sprint from too far back.

The relatively easy pace of the day meant a fresh peloton prevented any one team establishing a clear lead on the three lane roads in the final kilometres.

Coquard has shown form this season with four podium finishes, but had been unable to taste a victory until today, so was understandably pleased with his day’s work.

“I wanted to win and this first stage of the Tour of Oman is perfect,” the 25-year-old sprinter said after the podium celebrations, where he also took the race leader’s jersey. “I had a very good lead out and a perfect sprint for me.

“I lost a stage in [Etolie de] Besseges race, because I celebrated and Laporte arrived and took the win, and today when I sprinted I sprinted all the way to the finish line so I am happy.”

>>> Tour of Oman 2018 route: stage by stage

In what was a relatively routine day, four riders escaped the peloton within the opening two kilometres of the 162.5km stage between Nizwa and Sultan Qaboos University.

The quartet of Maxime Farazijn (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Pierre Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Samsic), Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) and Brian van Goethem (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) were allowed to escape by the bunch, and built an advantage of 4.30 with just 15 kilometres gone.

A combination of undulating roads through the craggy Omani hills west of Muscat, and the break jockeying for position for the first intermediate sprint reduced their lead to 2-50. Perichon won that sprint, bagging the three bonus seconds, after which the gap once again increased to over three minutes, where it remained fairly static.

With around 100km gone a combination of UAE Team Emirates, Rally Cycling, and Cofidis managed the front of the pack, keeping the break at arms length, eventually then reeling them in at their leisure.

Perichon bagged the second sprint of the day with 25km to go, and was the first to return to clutches of the peloton with 11km left of the day, with his fellow escapees caught just one kilometre later.

The 2018 Tour of Oman continues on Wednesday with stage two from Sultan Qaboos University to Al Bustan, covering 167.5 kilometres. There are four major climbs along the way, including the final one of Al Jissah just five kilometres from the line. The race concludes on Sunday, February 18.

>>> Tour of Oman 2018: Latest news, reports and race info

Result

Tour of Oman 2018, stage one: Nizwa to Sultan Qaboos University, 162.5km
1. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept Cycling Team, in 3-58-41
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
5. Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
6. Adam Bythe (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
8. Bram Welten (Ned) Fortuneo-Samsic
9. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana
10. Boris Vallée (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, all same time

General classification after stage one
1. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept Cycling Team
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data, at 4 secs
3. Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic, at 4 secs
4. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 6 secs
5. Maxime Farazijn (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 8 secs
6. Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij, at 8 secs
7. Conor Dunne (Irl) Aqua Blue Sport, at 8 secs
8. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, at 10 secs
9. Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb, at 10 secs
10. Adam Bythe (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport, at 10 secs