World number one for a second consecutive year, Joaquim Rodriguez’s tireless efforts certainly mark him as one of the most popular members of the bunch, even if he still lacks the Grand Tour success he craves so badly . Victory in Oman however could prove the perfect catalyst for the diminutive Spaniard to finally rid himself of the nearly-man tag. He has got the miles in his legs from the Tour de San Luis and Dubai Tour, and the Tour of Oman should be the race in which the Katusha man steps up his efforts with the Giro d’Italia on the horizon.
Purito will be backed by chief lieutenant Dani Moreno, as both look for form ahead of the Ardennes Classics. And the reworked route could play perfectly into the 34-year-old’s hands, with the ascent of Green Mountain set to be pivotal in deciding the overall winner. His acceleration up the leg-sapping climb last year saw him burst clear of the likes of Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali. Only Chris Froome – at four seconds back – could keep pace. If he rids himself of Froome this time out, the red jersey should be his.