From Luke Evans, the driver of CW photographer Graham Watson’s motorbike at the 2011 Tour of Oman.

A big mountain finish today, and after nearly two weeks racing in Qatar and Oman, probably the first time every rider used the little chainring.

Approaching on the motorbike we gasped at the steepness of the lower slopes of Jabal al Akhdhar. Soon we could feel every laboured beat of the single cylinder motor as we tried to match the speed of the riders as they winched along in their smallest gears.

The jagged outline of mountains have been a constant backdrop to this year’s Tour of Oman. Today was our first taste of a proper climb.

As we worked our way inland, the alpine sized Jabal Nakhl mountains towered over us on the righthand side of the road. No vegetation was visible on their deeply scored flanks and it was only later, when the sun was lower and I was riding back to the hotel, that the sandy rocks were shown to best effect.

Yesterday the ride back from the stage finish in Sur was equally spectacular. So was the stage, which took us from a desert that resembled a gravel pit and brought to mind a spaghetti western film set, to an area where sand dunes rose cleanly from the scrub, their sublime outlines and textures in stark contrast to the prickly and barren terrain.

I asked a local how far it was to the Empty Quarter. At 250,000 square miles the Empty Quarter is the largest sand desert in the world. Just six hours by motorbike he replied.

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