In recent years, the Tour of Oman has become the first major meeting between the major general classification riders. The climbs of the Green Mountain and Bousher al Amerat possess that crucial combination of difficulty and warm weather that is so rare this early in the season.
Chris Froome (Sky) has won the past two editions, using the race to start his season with a bang and lay down a marker for his rivals. In 2013 he went on to dominate the season, culminating in overall victory at the Tour de France, although last year, as we know, didn’t progress quite so smoothly.
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This year, however, Froome has chosen to ride the Vuelta a Andalucia instead of attempting a hat-trick of Oman victories. There he’ll be joined by the majority of his most important domestiques, as Sky seem to be putting most of their resources towards sealing the overall in Spain.
In Oman, therefore, Leopold Konig looks set to have a chance to lead Sky, with the help of fellow new signing Wouter Poels and the likes of Irishman Philip Deignan and David Lopez.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) may be joining Froome at the Ruta de Sol, but the Tour of Oman still boasts a stellar line-up, headlined by Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali. He faces still competition for the overall from other top climbers using this race to reacclimatise themselves with the mountains, including breakout stars from last year’s Tour, Thibaut Pinot and Rafal Majka.
Before these riders come to the fore, the sprinters will get a chance to shine. Stage one takes the peloton across 161km flat kilometres from Bayt Al Naman Castle to Al Wutayah in what looks certain to end in a bunch sprint. Although similarly flat roads characterise the start of stage two at Al Hazm Castle, more difficulties await towards the finish at Al Bustan in the shape of a couple of short climbs in the final 25 kilometres. Stage three is a lot more straightforward, with a flat circuit beginning and ending at the Al Mussanah Sports Centre.
The pivotal point of the race will, as ever, occur atop the Green Mountain at Jabal Al Akhdar, which this year is climbed at the end of stage four. It is the only categorised climb in the stage, meaning the riders will spend the rest of the day leading up to the crucial steep ramp that begins the 5.7km effort.
While stage four will shape the GC, stage five provides the opportunity to shake things up. The Bousher Alamrat climb has proven a touch challenge in recent editions and shall again be climbed four times in the second half of the stage, which ought to be enough to put the sprinters out of contention, and could see the GC change hands.
Whoever does possess the leader’s jersey at the end of the stage will be almost certain of overall victory, with stage six’s ride from the Oman Air to Muttrah Promenade inevitably set for a bunch sprint.
Tour of Oman 2015: Stages
Stage one, Tuesday February 17, Bayt Al Naman Castle to Al Wutayyah, 161km
Stage two, Wednesday February 18, Al Hazm Castle to Al Bustan, 195km
Stage three, Thursday February 19, Al Mussanah Sports City to Al Mussanah Sports City, 159km
Stage four, Friday February 20, Sultan Qaboos Grande Mosque to Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain), 189km
Stage five, Saturday February 21, Al Sawadi Beach to Ministry of Housing, 152km
Stage six, Sunday February 22, Oman Air to Muttrah Promenade, 133km
Tour of Oman 2015: Teams
Trek Factory Racing
Tour of Oman 2015: TV Coverage
No coverage announced yet
Tour of Oman: Past winners
2014: Chris Froome
2013: Chris Froome
2012: Peter Velits
2011: Robert Gesink
2010: Fabian Cancellara
Tour of Oman: Last year’s top ten (2014)
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky
2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 26 secs
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 31 secs
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 48 secs
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 57 secs
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 1-01
7. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky at 1-19
8. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1-25
9. Johann Tschopp (Sui) IAM Cycling at 1-32
10. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 1-34