Tour of Oman 2011 stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson>>
Rabobank's Theo Bos overhauled Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) and Skil Shimano's Roger Kluge to win the first stage of the Tour of Oman on Tuesday, and with it the first red leader's jersey.
That the 158km pan-flat stage between Al Sawadi and Al Seeb, situated west along the coast from capital city Muscat, would come down to a bunch sprint was never in any doubt, which meant that the sprinters' teams were happy for the day to be marked by a three-day breakaway composed of Astana's Tanel Kangert, Pieter Serry (Topsport Vlaanderen) and British youngster Mark McNally of the An Post-Sean Kelly squad. The break got away 30 kilometres from the start, but was reeled in with less than 10 kilometres to go.
"It was a long day. The aim was for one of us to get in the move today, but it was a bit unlucky that there were only two other lads with me," McNally told Cycling Weekly at the finish, having done well to finish in the peloton. "The roads seemed to always be windy and always uphill, but it was a good day out."
McNally had come to Oman having already ridden the Tour of Qatar. "That first day in Qatar was a shock to the system - I'm not going to lie," he admitted. "After a winter of just doing steady miles, the speed just wasn't there, but every day you get a bit better, and then we came here to Oman and had a few days in a nice hotel just chilling out and getting the legs back to full strength, and then today I was OK.
"I enjoyed it, too. The lad from Astana [Kangert] was a good laugh, but the other fella from Topsport..." McNally trailed off, smiling. "We were going into a headwind at one point with about 50km to go and it seemed like we'd had a headwind all day, and Kangert came up next to me me and said... Well, I won't repeat the exact word he used, but he asked where the tailwind was!"
The break reached a maximum of almost five minutes after 50 kilometres, but the peloton slowly reeled them in without trying too hard.
"With about 30km to go, we were hovering around the two-minute mark," explained McNally, "and then we were caught with nine kilometres to go. But it's good to come to a race like this and be able to get into some moves. I'll have a massage tonight and hopefully it'll make me feel brand new for tomorrow and then we'll go again and see how it goes for the rest of the week. Saying that, I'm not looking forward to the time trial on Saturday. We rode it in training yesterday, and it's a bit masochistic with all those hills, if you ask me."
With McNally's day in the spotlight over, Sky kept the British end up by coming to the head of the peloton in the closing kilometres to try to set things up for Edvald Boasson Hagen, but it was Bos and Cavendish who emerged from the melee to duke it out for the win, with Kluge the best of the rest in third, and Boasson Hagen fourth.
Bos was thrilled to have beaten Cavendish to victory. "It feels like a real relief to have taken a win this early in the season, not only for me but for the team," Bos told Cycling Weekly, admitting that letting the break have its day made for an easier ride back in the peloton.
"For now I'm going to enjoy having won the jersey, and we'll do our best to win again and hold onto it. There are certainly more chances for us this week," Bos said.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) continues with another stage for the sprinters ahead of Friday's eagerly awaited 'queen stage' with its summit finish on Green Mountain - Jabal Al Akhdar - at 1,235m, with its six kilometres of climbing at an average of more than 10 per cent.
Tour of Oman 2011, stage one: Al Sawadi - Al Seeb, 158km
1. Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank
2. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad
3. Roger Kluge (Ger) Skil-Shimano
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
5. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
6. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
7. Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-ISD
8. Russell Downing (GB) Sky
9. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Quick Step
10. Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky all same time
25. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo
50. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky
70. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Sky
77. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly
94. Mark McNally (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly all at same time
Overall classification after stage one
1. Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank
2. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 4 secs
3. Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen same time
4. Roger Kluge (Ger) Skil-Shimano at 6 secs
5. Mark McNally (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 7 secs
6. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at same time
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky at 10 secs
8. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
9. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
10. Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-ISD all at same time
28. Roger Hammond (GB) Garmin-Cervelo
53. Ian Stannard (GB) Sky
73. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Sky all at same time
124. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post-Sean Kelly at 30 secs
Brit Mark McNally (left) was in the day's escape group
Kurt Asle Arvesen takes to the front of the chasing bunch
Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thor Hushovd
Team Sky's Mat Hayman, Jeremy Hunt and Russell Downing
Theo Bos narrowly beats Mark Cavendish for the win
Theo Bos in the leader's jersey
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