Tour of Oman 2014: stage five – five observations

Froome, Team Sky, Preben Van Hecke, fixture congestion...and July

Fixture congestion

Much has been written (rightly) about the crisis faced by cycling in its European heartlands as race promoters chase the sun and the dollar and the world governing body pursues a policy of global expansion. February presents an obvious example. The Volta ao Algarve, first held in 1960 and staged for the fortieth time this year, is not entirely starved of stars (Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, arguably the finest stage racer of his generation, leads the race as we write) but many of cycling’s biggest teams, Team Sky and BMC Racing among them, are absent.

Many of cycling’s biggest teams have opted for Oman over the Algarve. pic: ASO/Bruno Bade

Just seven of the 20 teams engaged in Portugal also compete in cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour. With the Tour of Oman and the Ruta del Sol (Vuelta Andalucia) also underway, not to mention the Tour du Haut Var, cycling’s elite teams suddenly face the fixture congestion of which the managers of Europe’s elite football teams complain. The Volta ao Algarve has a heritage four times greater than the Tour of Oman, but Sky has sent its leader to the Middle East. European races look set to face a continued battle for support in 2014.

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