Beginning with a 162.5km stage from Nizwa to Sultan Qaboos University, day one of this year’s Tour of Oman should be a chance for the sprinters to start with a bang. Though the roads rise somewhat after leaving the day’s start town, the second half of the stage is an extended descent which leads the peloton down to the finish, giving it the appearance of a day which the sprint teams shall be able to control easily enough. With the final turn coming at the flamme rouge, we should see a hotly contested sprint finish on wide roads, offering up a drag race amongst the best riders here.
Nacer Bouhanni is said to be undergoing a transformative experience these days, the hopes of many seeking to salvage the mercurial talent from the peloton’s most acquired taste in recent years, with signs positive so far. The provocative Frenchman mustered some encouraging signs during the Dubai Tour, though was unlucky enough to crash on the final bend of the last stage when looking well-positioned. His impressive turn of pace and ability to surf the wheels should serve him well amongst a pack lacking many dominant sprint trains, so should have eyes on the podium at the very least on Stage 1.
Mark Cavendish picked up a stage win during his recent time at the Dubai Tour and looks to be entering this race with a strong chance of collecting more early season victories. Though his support train has altered dramatically compared to last week, he will be able to rely on the talented young Scott Davies to position him safely during the final kilometre. A clear run at the line will be needed amongst a likely to be messy sprint, though years of experience do mean Cavendish knows how to handle himself by now.
Magnus Cort was unexpectedly strong last week and ended up on the podium behind eventual winner Elia Vivani, but he is another sprinter who shall see many of his key lieutenants leave him, as the team’s focus switches to climbing the general classification instead of sprints. However, Cort is not one who necessarily demands a committed leadout train and has previously performed well when having to look after himself, so will be confident of challenging for the win.
Adam Blythe surged late to push Elia Viviani close for the win on the final stage in Dubai, but had to settle for third as he just ran out of road before being able to overtake the Italian. With racing here likely to prove more attritional, Blythe could be able to draw closer to his faster rivals and take a surprise victory for himself.
Others to consider are Giacomo Nizzolo, Alexander Kristoff and Max Walscheid
1st Magnus Cort 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd Adam Blythe