Tour of Oman 2014: preview

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Racing

Tour of Oman 2014: preview

The route and riders as the climbers prepare for their moment in the Middle Eastern sun

Although predominantly a race for the climbers, the varied parcours means there are plenty of opportunities for stage victories for a variety of riders.

Two flat stages, with a bunch sprint also likely on a third, two medium mountain stages and a summit finish should make for an interesting six days in Oman with several riders offered the opportunity to bag some form ahead of the WorldTour’s return at Paris-Nice next month.

A varied route for the 2014 Tour of Oman, which looks set to be decided atop Green Mountain (pic: ASO)

Rolling out of As Suwayq Castle, stage one takes the riders towards the edge of the Al Hajar mountains, with the solitary climb of Al Rustaq, peaking at 349m, to negotiate before a downhill finish towards Naseem Garden on the coast.

Stage two also provides an opportunity for the sprinters, with a few steady inclines – none of which are classified – unlikely to pose too many problems en route from Al Bustan to Quriyat, where the terrain levels out for a completely flat finish.

The third stage is likely to be the first on which the climbers and rouleurs can stretch their legs, with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) hoping to repeat his stage victory from last year.

Al Hamriya, 24km from the finish, is likely to bring an end to the day’s break as the attacks and counter-attacks start, while the sharp ramp of Al Jissah presents the perfect opportunity for an escape with just a fast 6.5km ascent from the summit to the finish line.

With Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) also looking to lay down a marker ahead of the Classics season, all three could feature at the sharp end of the stage.

Stage four is another medium-mountain stage, and one very familiar to Chris Froome (Team Sky) after the Kenyan-born Brit won the stage last year, when it served as the penultimate day’s racing.

The undulating circuit towards the Ministry of Housing, which features four ascents of Bousher Alamrat, saw Froome, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) go clear and hold off an elite chasing group by just four seconds last year.

While victory on the stage allowed him to consolidate his lead however, Froome had already moved into the red jersey when he finished second behind Rodriguez on Green Mountain.

The profile for stage five, which finishes atop Green Mountain (pic: ASO)

The 5.7km climb, with an average gradient of 10.5 per cent and ramps reaching as high as 13 per cent will play a pivotal role again this week as it provides the stage five summit finish.

Rodriguez will be among the favourites again, and having proved too powerful for all but Froome last year, if he is able to shrug off the Team Sky man’s attentions this time out – with a 10-second time bonus also up for grabs – the Spaniard could well move into the overall lead.

And with a sprint finish expected again on stage six, which concludes with three laps of the 7.5km finishing circuit at Matrah Corniche after the climbs of Al Hamriyah and Al Jissah return at the start of the stage, the winner on Green Mountain could well prove to be the red jersey winner.

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