Chris Froome gets his season underway next week at the Tour of Oman (February 18-23). Last year, Froome won the first of his five stage race overall classifications in Oman, and will hope his 2014 season starts in a similar vein.
The Brit’s triumph last year reflects the race’s growing importance for the peloton’s top stage race riders. Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans rounded off the podium, while Joaquim Rodriguez and Vincenzo Nibali both featured in the top ten.
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Though Contador and Evans do not ride this year, the race remains the first big meet for grand tour hopefuls, with the likes of Tejay van Garderen, Roman Kreuziger, Rigoberto Uran and the Schlecks, as well as the aforementioned Rodriguez and Nibali, all vying for the honours.
Thanks to its climbs, the Tour of Oman has, since its inauguration in 2010, distinguished itself from the other middle-eastern races as a race for climbers to contend. Though the opening two stages give the sprinters a chance for glory, the terrain becomes more challenging from stage three onwards. If history is anything to go by, then stage five’s finish at Green Mountain ought to be decisive. This was the six kilometre ascent where Froome climbed into the leader’s jersey last year.
Victory for Froome would give him a crucial psychological advantage over his rivals going into the new season, whereas for Nibali and co. the race provides the opportunity to prove that the Tour de France champion is not unbeatable. One thing’s for sure: it will be keenly contested.
Ones to Watch
Supported by a strong team featuring Sergio Henao, David Lopez and new recruit Mikel Nieve, Sky will no doubt stick to the winning formula of riding at the front of the climbs to set up Froome for an attack near the top. It will be an ominous sign for his rivals should he win yet again.
Believed by many to be the man most capable of dethroning Froome at the Tour, this year’s Tour of Oman will mark the first time the pair has gone face-to-face in a stage race since the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico. That time round the Italian beat him with some audacious riding in the rain; can he do the same on the dusty Arabian roads of Oman?
Last year’s fourth place finisher has already got his season under way at the Tour de San Luis and Dubai Tour. The relatively short climbs should suit him, but typically Rodriguez shows his best form at the back end of the season.
The Tour of Oman marks the first time the Schleck brothers have ridden together since Frank was banned for doping in 2012. Their form here could indicate whether either is capable of reaching his previous highs.
The best sprinter on the startlist, Sagan will be hoping to add to the three stages he has previously won here.
Tour of Oman 2014: Stages
Stage one, Tuesday February 18, As Suwayq Castle to Naseem Garden, 164.5km
Stage two, Wednesday February 19, Al Bustan to Quriyat, 139km
Stage three, Thursday February 20, Bank Muscat to Al Bustan, 145km
Stage four, Friday February 21, Wadi Al Abiyad to Ministry of Housing, 173km
Stage five, Saturday February 22, BidBid to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain), 147.5km
Stage six, Sunday February 23, As Sifah to Matrah Corniche, 146.5km
Tour of Oman 2014: Stage reports, photos and news
Stage six: Chris Froome wins overall as Greipel takes final stage
Stage five: Chris Froome wins stage and takes lead
Stage four: Sagan takes first win of season, moves into overall lead
Stage three: Greipel back in charge
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
From Northampton to the Tour of Oman by bike
Stage two report: Kristoff wins
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Lotto-Belisol leads the way at the Tour of Oman
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one report: Andre Greipel wins
Tour of Oman 2014: Teams
Bardiani CSF (Italy)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
IAM Cycling (Switzerland)
Omega Pharma-QuickStep (Belgium)
Sky (Great Britain)
Topsport Vlaanderen (Belgium)
Trek Factory Racing (USA)
Tour of Oman 2014: TV guide
British Eurosport will be showing highlights of the 2014 Tour of Oman.
Stage one highlights, 8.30am, Wednesday February 19, British Eurosport 2
Stage two highlights, 8am, Thursday February 20, British Eurosport 2
Stage three highlights, 8am, Friday February 21, British Eurosport 2
Stage four highlights, 8am, Saturday February 22, British Eurosport 2
Stage five highlights, 8am, Sunday February 23, British Eurosport 2
Stage six highlights, 8am, Monday February 24, British Eurosport 2
Tour of Oman: Past winners
2013: Chris Froome
2012: Peter Velits
2011: Robert Gesink
2010: Fabian Cancellara
Tour of Oman: Last year’s top 10 (2013)
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky in 20-04-13
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo-Tinkoff at 27 secs
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 39 secs
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 50 secs
5. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r at 1-13
6. Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling at 1-13
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 1-19
8. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ at 1-34
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r at 1-44
10. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r at 1-57
Chris Froome says that he wants to replicate his 2013 season, starting with a defence of his Tour of Oman
Tour de France champion Chris Froome heads to the Tour of Oman, with Bradley Wiggins riding in the Ruta del
Your guide to the Tour of Oman 2013: latest news, preview, teams, riders, past winners, TV guide and much more