February 18, 2015 (Al Bustan, Oman) – As expected, stage 1 of the Tour of Oman ended up in a spectacular bunch sprint. Four riders, however, did try their luck as they broke away as soon as the first kilometre. But there wasn’t much they could do on the day’s flat stage against the hungry peloton. On the final straight in Al Wutayyah, Andrea Guardini powered to his first stage win of the season. The Italian managed to beat Tom Boonen and Matteo Pelucchi to the line, capturing the overall leader’s Red Jersey.
Beautiful weather conditions and very hot temperatures welcomed the riders of the 2015 Tour of Oman for the first stage of the event, starting just by the splendid Bayt Al Naman Castle. All eyes of course were on the reigning Tour de France winner, Vincenzo Nibali, eager to battle it out with some of the best riders in the world. While Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) was forced to withdraw from the race, 143 men took off at 11:38 for a 161-km ride heading towards Muscat.
As soon as the first kilometres of racing, four men broke away: Van Zyl (MTN), Van Meirhaeghe (TSV), Konrad (BOA) and Andreetta (BAR). Their lead rapidly grew and went from 2′ at km 7 to a maximum 5’15 at km 17. That was when team Katusha decided to take command of the pack and started chasing. The gap dropped down to 3’15 at the first intermediate sprint (km 47.5) won by Konrad ahead of Van Meirhaeghe and Andreetta.
As the pack moved closer, Van Zyl decided to take off on his own while in the feeding zone (km 76). The South African reached the second bonus sprint (km 87) with a 1′ lead over his former breakaway companions and 4’10 over the pack. Van Meirhaeghe, Konrad and Andreetta were later caught at km 93, while Van Zyl continued his solo effort. The courageous escapee was finally gobbled up by the peloton at km 126.
On the long road heading towards Muscat, the pack remained bunched and did so until the final straight set in Al Wutayyah. In impressive fashion, Andrea Guardini (AST) powered to the line claiming his first ever success in Oman. Already a winner of a stage on the Giro d’Italia in 2012, the Italian sprinter beat Tom Boonen (EQS) and Matteo Pelucchi (IAM). Thanks to his victory, he conquers the overall leader’s Red Jersey and the points classification Green Jersey. Patrick Konrad claims the White Jersey for the best young rider as well as the Red and Green polka dot Jersey having earned the most points at the intermediate sprints.
Despite the long distance, despite the hot weather conditions and despite the steep final climbs, there was no stopping Fabian Cancallara today. The Swiss conquered his first ever stage of the Tour of Oman in outstanding fashion. Part of a final group of favourites, the 2010 event winner managed to beat Alejandro Valverde and Greg Van Avermaet on the final straight in Al Bustan. Cancellara conquers the overall leader’s Red jersey after a very eventful day. There was a like a taste of Milan – San Remo on this second day of the event.
The temperature had raised up several degrees for day 2 of the Tour of Oman and the longest stage of the event. The 143 riders of the race including Red Jersey Andrea Guardini (AST), took off from the magnificent Al Hazm Castle at 10:47AM in extremely hot weather conditions for a 195.5kms ride all the way to Al Bustan. Four men managed attacked after just two kilometres: Smukulis (KAT, Van Hecke, Van Meirhaeghe (both TSV) and Barbin (BAR). Not too concerned, the pack let this group of breakaway riders take off and the gap increased rapidly. After 11.5 kilometres, it had indeed reached 5’15. The first intermediate sprint (km 35.5) was claimed by Van Meirhaeghe ahead of Smukulis and Van Hecke while the pack remained 5′ adrift. With team Astana taking on the chase, the gap started dropping. Hit by a puncture, Barbin was naturally dropped by his companions and never managed to move back to the front. After 46kms, the Italian was 1′ adrift while the pack had moved slightly closer at 4’20. Barbin was eventually caught at km 50.
The front three riders carried on pushing hard at the front and again the gap over the pack increased. It even reached a maximum 8’10 at km 86. Teams Movistar and Tinkoff-Saxo then decided to really chase. At the second bonus sprint (km 143) claimed by Van Meirhaeghe in front of Van Hecke and Smukulis, the pack remained 4’15 adrift. With 25kms to go, the front three could only enjoy a 2′ lead. Time then came for the first climb of the day. Going up Al Hamriyah, Gatis Smukulis powered away. The Latvian reached the top with a 30” advantage over Van Meirhaeghe and Van Hecke, and 1’10 over a pack that had dropped the exhausted Red Jersey, Andrea Guardini. Eventually only one man stayed clear of the chasing peloton of around 80 riders, but Smukulis after his impressive effort was caught at km 179.
In the second climb of the day (Al Jissah), four men managed to break away: Fuglsang (AST), Hermans (BMC), Arredondo (TFR) and Meintjes (MTN). They reached the top, led by Arredondo, with a slim 20” lead but were caught just a few moments later by a group of 14 strong men. Among the leading bunch with just 5 kilometres to go were the likes of Van Garderen, Van Avermaet (both BMC), Sagan, Majka (both TCS), Moreno (KAT), Cancellara (TFR) and Pozzato (LAM) but no Nibali (AST), Pinot (FDJ) or Rodriguez (KAT) dropped in the previous climb.
In the final slightly uphill straight, Fabian Cancellara perfectly dosed his effort overtaking his strongest rivals to capture the stage win. The Swiss rider who had won the very first edition of the Tour of Oman, claimed his first ever stage in the Sultanate, beating Alejandro Valverde and Greg Van Avermaet to the line. Like in 2010, the 33-year-old conquers the overall leader’s Red Jersey with a 4” advantage over Valverde and 5” over Konrad (BOA). Cancellara also takes command of the points classification (Green jersey) while Konrad remains the best young rider. Present in the breakaway for the second consecutive day, Van Meirhaeghe claims the polka-dot combativity jersey.
1. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team 3:45:38
2. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx-Quick Step
3. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) IAM Cycling
4. Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
6. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
8. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
9. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre – Merida
10. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
133. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 1:00
1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek Factory Racing 4:36:46
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre – Merida
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
6. Julian Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing
7. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
8. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Esp) Team Katusha
9. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team
10. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
63. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 2:46
GC after Stage 2
1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek Factory Racing 8:22:14
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Esp) Movistar Team 0:04
3. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Argon 18 0:05
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:06
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:10
6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team
7. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team
8. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Esp) Team Katusha
9. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
10. Julian Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing
78. Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 3:56