The opening stage of the 2019 Tour of Oman looked likely to come down to a sprint as the peloton tackled a 138.5km dash along the coast.
A pan-flat route awaited the riders in the first Middle East race of the fledgling season, starting at Al Sawadi Beach and finishing in Suhar Corniche.
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The 2019 race, which runs from Saturday (February 16) to Thursday (February 21), has attracted sprinting talent as well as those looking to the Classics season.
CCC Team’s Greg Van Avermaet is arguably the biggest name to line up at the six-stage event.
Niki Terpstra, winner of the 2018 Tour of Flanders, is also looking to get more miles in his legs with his new Direct Energie team.
In anticipation of the sprint stages, Germany’s André Greipel is there with his new Continental outfit Arkéa Samsic.
Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) is also racing, along with Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).
Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko won the 2018 edition of the race and returns this year.
After opening with a sprint stage, the following three days will be lumpy and unpredictable, before heading to the biggest test of the week. Stage five sees the riders tackle Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Green Mountain.
The final stage is another lumpy but less testing day, likely to end in a bunch sprint.
Van Avermaet has ridden all but one edition of the race since it was launched in 2010.
The Belgian said: “It’s good preparation, a relaxing event, good weather with some nice stages.
“It’s a nice way to build up for the season. I like the way many of the stages are prepared for punchy riders.”
Catch up on the best bits from stage one here or read our race report.
The race continues with a 156.5km run, starting on the coast at Royal Cavalry Oman and finishing by the sea at Al Bustan.