Kristoff wins stage one
Team UAE Emirates' Alexander Kristoff’s love affair with the sultanate continues since the annual Tour of Oman cycling race began in 2010. Competing in the tenth edition, the Norwegian sprinter came up with a dominating display to cruise to victory on stage one on Saturday to claim the first leader's jersey of the race and also clinch his ninth Tour of Oman stage win.
The 31 year old Kristoff came home ahead of French sprinters Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis Solutions Credits) in the 138.5km stage that was flagged off from the Al Sawadi Beach.
Andre Greipel of Team Arkea -Samsic suffered a late puncture with less than ten kilometres to go, and although he was able to return to the peloton he was unable to break into the top-ten.
After the finish, Kristoff said, “It was a tailwind and very fast. It was difficult to come from far behind because it was really stretched out, but it was also hard to time it because you can’t go too early with this tailwind - you need some draft.
"Actually, I never got off the saddle, I was seated the whole sprint. It was mostly about leg speed, actually, and I have pretty good leg speed, I trained a bit on it during the winter. When I saw I hit the front with 70m to go I was pretty confident, but you never know - someone can suddenly come from behind with speed, but I’m very happy to take the win."
A total of 126 riders rolled out from the start as the peloton tackled the 138.5km along the coast to towards the finish at Sohar Corniche. It wasn't long before the attacks started with a four-man move quickly establishing a healthy lead of 4:25 after just 15km of racing. Sergio Rodriguez (Euskadi Basque Country-Murias), Michael Schar (CCC Team), Guerin Alexis (Delko Marseille Provence, and Emiel Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) saw their advantage drop to 2:55 after 42km of racing, while Alexis raced home to win the first intermediate sprint of the race. The four leaders battled but they held a 2:45 gap with 35km to and the faintest hopes of competing for the win.
However, with so many strong sprint teams at the race there was little chance of a break deciding the stage. Planckaert was the first to buckle under the strain with 20km to go, leaving the three remaining leaders with just under a minute to play with. With ten kilometres to go the gap was down to just 15 seconds and further 4km from the line the trio's day was put to an end.
There was late drama when Greipel punctured but there would be no denying Kristoff. Stage two on Sunday will see the riders compete from Royal Cavalry Oman to Al Bustan over a distance of 156.5km.
Stage classification [top five]: 1 Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) 02h54m50s, 2 Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept – B&B Hotels), 3 Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits), 4 Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Dimension Data), 5 Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Energie).