After three editions characterised by sporting success and popular fervour, the Tour of Oman takes a step up this year. With 18 teams at the starting line, two more than in previous years, a total of 144 riders will set off from Al Musannah tomorrow. Broadcast to 180 countries, the fourth edition of the race augurs a great spectacle, with an exceptional line-up of riders.From Wiggins to Contador, plus Evans, Nibali, Froome and Rodriguez, the best stage race riders have arrived in Muscat to take on the steep roads of the Sultanate, particularly on Thursday near the summit of Jabal Al Akhdhar (‘the Green Mountain’). The main classic race chasers – headed by Boonen, Cancellara and Gilbert – have also responded to the call and will try and impose their all-terrain skills on the race. As for the sprinters, the last holder of the green jersey in the Tour de France, Peter Sagan, will have to watch out for the Germans Kittel and Degenkolb, the Italian Benatti or the Australian Matthew Goss in the sprint finishes.
A whiff of the Tour de France will shortly be filling the Sultanate of Oman. Taking place between 11-16th February, this relative new comer to the world circuit has firmly cemented its position as a key early season race for riders to test their legs and gauge their rivals’ form. And in the year that celebrates the 100th edition of the Grande Boucle, it is no surprise that the top contenders for the yellow and green jerseys all want to race here.Crunch time will come on Stage Four up the Jabal al Akhdhar (also known as the green mountain). The inclusion of this fearsome climb (5.8 km at an average gradient of 10.3%), at this stage of the season, will provide a real challenge for three of the four most recent Tour de France winners: Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador. It will be no less difficult for those who are vying to follow in their footsteps: Christopher Froome, Vincenzo Nibali, and Joaquim Rodríguez.