Taylor Phinney© Presse Sports
For its second edition, starting tomorrow at Al Sawadi, the Tour of Oman promises to be one of the most, if not the most, exciting race of the start to the cycling season. With some of the best riders of the planet present, outstanding landscapes and extremely challenging stages, the Tour has all the ingredients to make for an outstanding event.
Take the best from Qatar and add a World Champion, several promising talents, World-class climbers and Tour stage winners! Four days after the final stage of the Tour of Qatar, some of the best riders on the planet will be battling it out on the roads of Oman. While the wind was a key feature, further up north, the hilly landscapes will test out the best even more.
Sprint and Classics’ specialists like title holder Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Daniele Bennati or Heinrich Haussler already showed that they were in form a week ago. They will certainly be men to count on in Oman. Meanwhile, a disappointed Mark Cavendish, who suffered a fall during the prologue of the Tour of Qatar, finally decided to extend his stay in the Middle-East and will want to hit back for his first appearance in Oman.
But other than the terrain, the task of the men from Qatar will be made even more difficult with the addition of outstanding talents. Bearing his brand new World Champion’s jersey, after his triumph in Australia last September, Thor Hushovd will want to be at the height of the prestigious rainbow on his chest.
Also present for the first time are the likes of Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2010 winner, Alexander Vinokourov, competing in his last season, Joaquin Rodriguez, a memorable winner of the Mende stage on the Tour de France and Dutchman and mountain specialist Robert Gesink. Other than the perfect weather conditions, their presence is also due to the mountainous terrain. Indeed, stage 4 of the race, for instance, with a mountain top finish at Green Mountain, should be an outstanding show.
A day later, it’ll be the time-trial specialists’ turn to fight it out on the very demanding course set around Al Jissah. A day that Fabian Cancellara certainly already has in mind in his quest to retain his title and conquer a new Red Jersey. But the Swiss will be tested out by promising Taylor Phinney who finally decided to make the trip to Oman, after recovering from a knee injury. Second last year, another young talent, Edvald Boasson Hagen will also be one to watch on a rollercoaster type time-trial that should be one of the climaxes of the 2011 Tour of Oman.
The Tour of Oman started in style this afternoon (14 February) as Eddy Merckx met up with twenty-five local school children aged between 8-12 years old to go for a cycling along Muscat's picturesque corniche before the full Tour starts tomorrow morning.
Waved off by H.E. Sultan Hamdoon Al Harthi, Head of Muscat Municipality, the kids sped down the road through old Muscat with Eddy. "Inspiring the next generation is a key element of the Tour of Oman. One year ago, cycling was not well known in Oman, but after the success of the first Tour, it is gaining momentum and we are honoured that Eddy was able to join us today to help personally motivate these children. We aim to grow this aspect of the Tour in future and involve more local schools and children."
One of the local children taking part was Hassan from Ibda Private School. "I am a great fan of football and swimming and it was great fun to have the opportunity to go out cycling today. I hadn't actually heard of Eddy Merckx before, but I now understand that he is a huge hero in Europe and I have now got to say hello to him. That is really cool!" Hussan, aged 8 years old was delighted to also join in. "That was brilliant. When can I go again?! Eddy smiled at me and helped one of my friends put the chain back on my bike. He seemed really nice."
Eddy Merckx told the local radio station on that start line that "Oman is a great country to organise a cycling race as we have everything here, we have the climbs, we have the flat we have the wind, so it is a perfect location for a race to also show off the country. Other sports only show off the stadium or the court and this enables us to show the whole country. We have big riders here this year, we have the world champion, big riders like Thor Hushovd, Alexandre Vinokourov, Taylor Phinney, Fabian Cancellara, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Oliver Rodriguez. Today we are going to ride with 25 kids to ride with them for the Muscat Festival. Kids are the begining and if they are doing sport the can do anything in life."
© Presse Sports
After a very exciting tenth edition of the Tour of Qatar, it’s time to focus on the upcoming Tour of Oman. Further down south, the race promises to be extremely demanding with a hilltop finish, a tough time-trial and some of the best riders in the world. Here’s what the big guns in Qatar had to say before setting off to Oman.
Fabian Cancellara (LEOPARD-TREK)
“I’m in a rather good physical state although the Tour of Qatar was a very hard race. There was a lot of wind, a lot of fighting but I got through it OK. We had a good result with the team and worked well together. I’m now looking forward to Oman because I won last year. It’s going to be harder, it’s going to be different. I’ll take it how it is. We’ll have two new riders in the team made for climbing. And that should be pretty hard. I’m still in preparation for the Classics. I probably have the legs to win but we still have to see. I suffered a bit during Qatar but I’m going to enjoy some rest days and get ready for Oman.”
Heinrich Haussler (TEAM GARMIN – CERVELO)
There was a great battle with Mark Renshaw for the leader’s jersey in Qatar. Like in 2009, I finish second. I reached my goal in Qatar, I carried the Golden jersey and even won two stages. It’s fantastic for confidence. I’m going to Oman for the first time and the race appears to be difficult with a hill-top finish and a tough time-trial. I don’t quite know what to expect, we’ll see.
Juan Antonio Flecha (SKY PROCYCLING)
It’s the fourth time I compete in Qatar and this year I managed my best result. It’s perfect to prepare for the spring classics and I was able to work hard on the time-trial. Here, the conditions are perfect for riding. Now, it’s time for Oman with great natural diversity and especially the many people on the side of the roads.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-HIGHROAD)
After falling during the prologue of the Tour of Qatar, my objectives completely changed. I helped Mark Renshaw win the race and personally I worked hard. I’m not in the same shape as during the month of July during the Tour de France. It’s still the beginning of the season, it’s only the month of February. I don’t know Oman, other riders talked to me about the race and I can’t wait to discover it. The conditions will be great to ride. I come on the race, relaxed and calm.
Tom Boonen (QUICK STEP)
During the final stage, we hadn’t even started and suddenly three or four riders fell just in front of me. I couldn’t avoid them and I also fell. It isn’t too serious and if had really been in pain, I wouldn’t have continued. It was still a good week with a stage victory. It’s just a shame that I punctured during stage 3. But we showed that we had a young and talented team that should manage great things this season.
The Tour of Oman is a lot harder and I don’t have the objective to perform well in the overall standings. Here, the race will be controlled by the climbers. Oman is a great country. I remember that last year, there were a lot of people on the side of the roads. It really looks like the races that we have back home, in Europe."
Fabian Cancellara© Presse Sports
Thor Hushovd© Presse Sports
The Tour of Oman, whose second edition will be held from the 15th to the 20th of February, is becoming an attractive race for title hunters.
Indeed, the riders vying for victory at the end of this six-stage race should be no strangers to the highest step of prestigious podiums. Fabian Cancellara’s first goal of the season is to defend his title in Oman with a view to starting the year just as successfully as in 2010, but the time trial world champion will need to keep an eye on new road race world champion Thor Hushovd, who is kicking off his 2011 season in the Sultanate. The Norwegian will be making his debut in Garmin-Cervélo colours backed by Christian Vande Velde and Heinrich Haussler. He will be banking on their support to see off the competition, which includes not only his young, up-and-coming countryman Edvald Boasson Hagen (2nd in 2010), but also Filippo Pozzato, Alexandre Vinokourov, Denis Menchov, Tom Boonen, Sandy Casar, Alessandro Petacchi, etc. The race will cover more than 800 km over a variety of terrains (Al Jissah time trial, Green Mountain summit finish, etc.), giving many different types of riders their chance and opening the door to many candidates for both stage wins and the final victory.
Main contenders (as of February 1)
Team Leopard-Trek: Cancellara (SWI), Bennati (ITA); Team Garmin-Cervélo: Hushovd (NOR), Haussler (GER); Katusha Team: Rodríguez (SPA), Pozzato (ITA); Geox-TMC: Menchov (RUS); Pro Team Astana: Vinokourov, Iglinskiy (KAZ); Sky Procycling: Boasson Hagen (NOR), Flecha (SPA); Rabobank Cycling Team: Gesink, Boom (NET); HTC-High Road: Bak (DEN); Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli: Caccia (ITA); Quick Step Cycling Team: Boonen, Steegmans (BEL); FDJ: Casar, Geslin (FRA); BMC Racing Team: Burghardt (GER), Kroon (NET); Skil-Shimano: Geschke (GER); Lampre-ISD: Bole (SLO), Petacchi (ITA); Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator: Steurs (BEL); An Post - Sean Kelly: Eeckhout (BEL)
After the sporting, popular and media success of the first edition of the Tour of Oman, marked by the victory of the Swiss Fabian Cancellara, the heroes of the road are back on Omanese soil, with a route that we already know will be much more undulating than in 2010. Organized from 15 to 20 February 2011 under the patronage of His Excellence, Head of Muscat Municipality and the Muscat Council, Sultan Bin Hamdoon Al-Harthi, the race will once again be a top-level sporting event boasting magnificent landscapes. Five flat stages and a punishing 18 km time-trial stage will be on the menu for this second edition. The riders will also have to compete on a stage designed for climbers on the slopes of Jabal Al Akhdar (The Green Mountain), with a final climb of 5.8 km with an average gradient of 10.3%, rising to as steep as 13.5% over the final two kilometres.
An Post – Sean Kelly (IRL)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli (GBR)
Katusha Team (RUS)
Luxembourg Pro Cycling Team (LUX)
Quickstep Cycling Team (BEL)
Skil - Shimano (NED)
Sky Pro Cycling (GBR)
Team HTC – Highroad (GBR)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (BEL)
After the spectacular opening of the 2nd Asian Beach Games on Wednesday (8 December) night, there was no better location or timing to announce the next highlight on Oman’s international sporting calendar: the 2nd Tour of Oman.
At a press conference held at al Musannah Sports City on Thursday 9 December, the legendary cyclist and Tour of Oman organiser Eddy Merckx, the Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme and the famous French cyclist Bernard Hinault, another five times winner of the Tour de France, joined Director-General Saif Al Rashidy from Muscat Municipality to unveil the names of the successful teams and the new route map for the 2011 Tour.
The first edition of the Tour of Oman in February 2010 was marked by the victory of the Swiss champion Fabian Cancellara. The heroes of the road are already aware that this second Tour will be much hillier than in 2010. Hailed as an ideal early season training ground by the cyclists, competitors this year will also find themselves tackling part of the mighty Jebel Akhdar (the green mountain); a major test in endurance as well as around a loop of the ancient seaport of Sur. “In February 2011 the Tour will be one of the key highlights of the Muscat Festival (27 January – 24 February), an annual showcase of Oman’s heritage and culture. Alongside a Muscat Fashion Week, an Oman Food Festival, the international Extreme Sailing competition and an Oman Heritage and Cultural Village, the Tour will now see one hundred and twenty eight of the major names in the sport of cycling returning to the Sultanate. Consisting of six stages, the competitors will be racing across some of the most spectacular Omani countryside as well as through the heart of Muscat.” said Saif Al Rushaidy, Director-General of External Liaison for Muscat Municipality in his opening remarks at the press conference.
Eddy Merckx then took to the floor and explained why he wanted to bring a version of the Tour de France to the Sultanate of Oman : “Oman is a breathtakingly beautiful country and an exciting addition to the international cycling calendar. This is a race to watch.”
Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France Director also fully endorsed the inclusion of Oman on the international cycling scene and praised the organisation and atmosphere of the inaugural edition in 2010. “Racing through Oman’s magnificent countryside, the atmosphere was exhilarating. Watching nearly one hundred and thirty professional cyclist speeding past was the first introduction to this competitive sport for the majority of the spectators and the enthusiasm shown is a bedrock for ensuring the future success of the competition. With the edition of the Sultanate of Oman to the world circuit, the cycling world continues to extend its realm in new directions. More than ever, we believe that the Tour of Oman has a great future worthy of the prestige of this great nation.”
The teams list
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Farnese Neri Cycling Team (GBR)
Lampre-I S D (ITA)
Pegasus Sports (AUS)
Quickstep Cycling Team (BEL)
Sky Pro Cycling Team (GBR)
Team HTC – Highroad (GBR)
The Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project (LUX)
Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator (BEL)