Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) overcame a scare to charge to victory in the opening stage of the Tour of Oman, oursprinting Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) to claim the red jersey.
Despite his Lotto-Belisol team having pulled hard at the front of the pack for much of the stage, Greipel was among the riders dropped as a strong section of crosswind split the bunch on the approach to Naseem Garden.
But the powerful German recovered as the race came back together, and he emphatically outsprinted Howard and Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani-CSF) to continue his fine start to the 2014 season.
Earlier, Preben van Hecke and Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Nicola Boem (Bardiani CSF) and Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthCare) escaped almost from the flag to form the day’s break.
With none of the ProTeam’s riders interested in joining the attack, the gap grew rapidly until they had almost five minutes on the bunch after just ten kilometres of racing.
Perhaps wary of Bazzana, fresh from his day-long break on the final day of the Tour of Qatar and the late attack which cost Lotto-Belisol road position in the sprint, the Belgian team took up the chase.
With the average speed of the four escapees less than 40kmh however, the bunch always appeared in control behind as van Hecke led the way over Al Rustaq, the sole climb of the day.
FDJ.fr, riding for Nacer Bouhanni – a stage winner last year – also brought riders to the front despite being without late withdrawal Thibaut Pinot, with in-form Omega Pharma-Quickstep joining the chase as the gap tumbled.
With the four still holding a lead of more than one minute heading into the final 25km, crosswinds splintered the chasing group however with Greipel among the riders dropped.
The crosswinds also brought an end to the break as those remaining in the peloton dropped the hammer with overall contender Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) also among those missing the split.
Rodriguez and Greipel’s group never fully lost touch however, latching back on after a nervy few kilometres, and the whole race came back together in the final ten kilometres, allowing the sprint trains plenty of time to come together.
And though the green jerseys of Belkin led the sprint out, it was once again the well-oiled Lotto-Belisol machine which set Greipel up for his fourth victory of the season.
Tour of Oman 2014: stage one – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – 4.03.31
2) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
3) Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
4) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ.fr
5) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
6) Michael van Staeyen (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
7) Barry Markus (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
8) Steve Chainel (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
9) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Team Katusha
10) Borut Bozic (SVN) – Astana
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol – 4.03.21
2) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE +4″
3) Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF +6″
4) Preben van Hecke (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise – ST
5) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +7″
6) Nicola Boem (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF – ST
7) Stijn Devolder (BEL) – Trek Factory Racing +9″
8) Alessandro Bazzana (ITA) – UnitedHealthCare – ST
9) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ.fr +10″
10) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – ST