Info with one day to go
February 9 th 2022 - 19:20 [GMT + 4]
The peloton 102 riders, including World Champions Mark Cavendish and Rui Costa, settled in Muscat on the eve of the stage 1. Climbers like Fausto Masnada are looking forward to Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain): “It’s a real climb, a hard climb!”. The Danish puncher Soren Kragh Andersen, already a stage winner in Oman, feels good and sees many opportunities to shake up the race.
“We have all the ingredients for a successful edition”
On the eve of stage 1, the organisers spoke to the local and international media from the race headquarters, in Muscat. “The goals of this event have always been to promote Oman as a destination, to inspire our youth and to develop their skills on bikes”, described Saif Subaa Alrushaidi, president of Oman Cycling Association. “The organisation has brought a lot of challenges, bringing teams from different countries and continents, but we are back in action!”, he added. “We are doing everything possible to ensure the race is not only exciting but also safe for everyone.” By his side, Amaury Sport Organisation’s Deputy Cycling Director Pierre-Yves Thouault highlighted: “We have all the ingredients for a successful edition: routes in spectacular landscapes and talented riders.” Race director Franck Perque underlined the variety of the course: “The six stages along the coast and inland will allow sprinters, puncheurs and climbers to battle for victories.”
Cavendish-Gaviria, friendly and fierce battles ahead
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) had no hesitation when it came to naming his main rival for the sprints: “Mark is a great champion, we all know his record in the Tour de France, and he’s a good friend. We’ll see what happens against him this week.” Coming off the Saudi Tour, the Colombian ‘Misil’ feels like “every race brings me closer to my best level”, a level that led him to the yellow and pink jerseys at the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. Cavendish has identified three opportunities for the sprinters and is looking forward to racing: “It’s nice to be here in Oman. You got mountains, sprints, crosswinds… And it’s a beautiful place to ride. I think everybody coming into a new season looks forward to seeing their shape. It doesn’t matter how well you go until you compare yourself with other people. We’re here with a group that can work ok across all terrains.”
Climbers and punchers eye Jabal Al Akhdhar
The mighty slopes of Green Mountain (5.7km, 10.5%) can favour the purest climbers as well as the most explosive punchers. “You can compare it with the Mur de Huy”, Elie Gesbert (Arkea-Samsic) describes after finishing 5th atop the climb in 2019. Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) was 4th on that day, and he even finished 2nd in 2017. The 2014 World Champion eyes victory, and highlights Fausto Masnada (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team) and Rein Taaramäe among his main rivals: "I'm here to lead the team, I feel good and I know Jabal Al Akhdhar will be the place to make differences for the overall classification." Masnada, returning to competition after his place of 2nd in the Giro di Lombardia, is a newcomer in Oman, set to discover the mighty ascent: "I've studied Green Mountain on the map, and I watched the videos of Alexey Lutsenko [winner of the Tour of Oman in 2018 and 2019]. It's a real climb, a hard climb! The other stages can be tricky, but this will make the difference for the overall win."
Kragh Andersen: “I feel ready”
Already a stage winner in Qurayyat in 2017, the Dane Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) is eager to show his good condition as he tackles a new season with ambitions: “The winter went very well, for me and for the team. I’m happy to start racing, I feel ready. But Oman is a hard race, quite hilly. It’s a good race ahead of the Belgian opener and Paris-Nice. We’ve been a bit unlucky with Covid, but we’re are with a group capable of winning stages. Of course I hope to do good in Qurayyat, it’s a stage I really look forward to, but I hope to have a good race in general, and there are several opportunities.”
Al-Rahbi: “It’s an honour”
For the first time since the Tour of Oman was born in 2010, a selection of local riders will take on the event. “It’s an honour to wear our colours in such an event that will show us what professional cycling really is”, Said Al-Rahbi said on Wednesday. “I’m a climber, and I like the route, it suits my abilities”, the 21 year-old rider explained. He will notably return to Qurayyat, where he claimed the Oman National Champion title last Autumn. “It’s not a very long climb, but it’s enough to make differences”, Al-Rahbi said about the ascent (2.8km, 6.5%) leading to the finish in Qurayyat, on day 3. He’s also familiar with the infamous Green Mountain, a training ground for him. “These 6 kilometres are the hardest”, he says with a smile.