Vincenzo Nibali and Tom Dumoulin among big names to ride Tour of Oman

The Tour of Oman will host at least four Grand Tour hopefuls in February, including Vincenzo Nibali and Tom Dumoulin

Grand Tour hopefuls Vincenzo Nibali, Richie Porte, Romain Bardet and Tom Dumoulin will be among the starters of the Tour of Oman (February 16-21).

Defending champion Rafael Valls will also return with his new team Lotto-Soudal, having taken the leader’s jersey on the queen stage to the Green Mountain.

The route up the mountain – the defining climb of the race in its seven year history – is now 1.8km longer, bringing the total distance to 7.5km at an average gradient of 10.7 per cent.

Dumoulin and Nibali will be using the testing six-stage race to prepare for May’s Giro d’Italia, while the race fits into Porte and Bardet’s long build-up to the Tour de France in May.

Two-time winner Chris Froome will be absent, however, with Team Sky preferring not to send a team to the race in 2016.

2016 Tour of Oman stages

Tuesday 16 February, stage 1: Oman Exhibition Center > Al Bustan, 145.5 km
Wednesday 17 February, stage 2: Omantel Head Office > Quriyat, 162 km
Thursday 18 February, stage 3: Al Sawadi Beach > Naseem Park, 176.5 km
Friday 19 February, stage 4: Knowledge Oasis Muscat > Jabal Al Akhdar, 177 km
Saturday 20 February, stage 5: Yiti (Al Sifah) > Ministry of Tourism, 119.5 km
Sunday 21 February, stage 6: The Wave Muscat > Muttrah Corniche, 130.5 km