Vincenzo Nibali wants to win Tour of Oman on way to Tour de France title defence

Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali wants a strong start to his season, aiming to win the Tour of Oman in mid-February

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) plans to win the Tour of Oman, February 17 to 22, on the way to defending his Tour de France title.

“I like this race,” Nibali said. “I’ve had great satisfactions in Oman in the past, like my win at the Green Mountain in 2012. I hope to win there again even though I know I’ll face a fierce competition.”

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Organiser ASO, which also runs the Tour, announced today the teams and their star riders for the six-day stage race.

Nibali’s competition includes overall favourites Peter Velits, Tejay van Garderen (both BMC Racing), Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Sky’s Leopold König.

Nibali won the queen stage to Green Mountain and finished second overall in 2012 behind Peter Velits. This year, it will be his second Middle East stop after starting his season with the Dubai Tour, February 4 to 7.

“Vincenzo has prepared for the season better than last year,” Astana’s head coach, Paolo Slongo said.

“This time around, he won’t wait for the month of June and the Italian championship to grab his first victory. It might as well happen as early as at the Tour of Oman.”

Chris Froome won the last two years, 2014 and 2013, but this year will race the Spain’s Ruta del Sol and Italy’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage races to start his 2015 season.

Sky will rely on new hire König to lead its team instead this year. The Czech, who placed seventh in the Tour behind Nibali, is expected to race with Christian Knees, David López, Danny Pate, Wout Poels, Chris Sutton, Philip Deignan and Nathan Earle.

The Tour of Oman also welcomes several sprint and classics stars Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka).

The race, which runs around the capital city Muscat, will celebrate its sixth edition. Besides Froome and Velits, the list of winners counts Robert Gesink in 2011 and Cancellara in 2010.