Day-by-day guide to the 2015 Tour of Oman (February 17-22)
As it has in past years, the six-stage race has attracted a mix of Grand Tour contenders and classics riders looking to hone their form for the season ahead.
They will be faced with a mix of stages: some flat with almost inevitable bunch finishes and others more suited to the climbers and attackers.
Stage one, Tuesday February 17
Bayt Al Naman Castle to Al Wutayyah, 161km
The 2015 Tour of Oman opens with a straightforward stage, 161km in distance and with a largely flat profile. With two intermediate sprint points and points on offer at the finish, as well as the first chance to wear the leader’s jersey, it will undoubtedly be a day for the sprinters. A slight kick up toward the line in Al Wutayyah will not make it easy for the fastmen, however.
Stage two, Wednesday February 18
Al Hazm Castle to Al Bustan, 195km
Following a similar west-to-east trajectory as the opening stage, the second day of the race is longer and features two hills in the final 25 kilometres. The climbs of Al Hamriyah and Al Jissah not only offer the first mountains points of the race, but may also provide a launchpad for a late attack, particularly with a twisting finale into Al Bustan.
Stage three, Thursday February 19
Al Mussanah Sports City to Al Mussanah Sports City, 159km
A looping, flat and rather featureless stage takes the riders inland and then back to the coast for a stage that may be as affected by winds blowing off the sea as much as anything else. It’s the last flat stage before two following days featuring climbing, so any sprinter who missed out in the opening two days will be looking to make their mark.
Stage four, Friday February 20
Sultan Qaboos Grande Mosque to Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain), 189km
Jabal Al Akhdhar or Green Mountain has proved to be the decisive point of the race in previous editions, and the climb once again features as a finale. Although it’s no Alpine pass, Green Mountain rises up to 1235 metres over 5.7 kilometres and an average gradient of 10.5 per cent. The top is steeper, though, touching on 13.5 per cent and is one for the Grand Tour contenders to gauge their early-season form, and that of their rivals.
Stage five, Saturday February 21
Al Sawadi Beach to Ministry of Housing, 152km
Clinging to the coast of the Sea of Oman, stage five would be straightforward were it not for four ascents of the Bousher Al Amerat climb in its second half. It’s a stage designed for the classics riders to have some fun. After teh final climb, there’s a downhill followed by a flat section toward the finish, so any late attackers will have to be fully committed.
Stage six, Sunday February 22
Oman Air to Muttrah Promenade, 133km
The final stage of the race offers one last chance for the sprinters to grab a stage win. The day’s two minor climbs are positioned far enough away from the finish to have little impact on the finale, and the short distance will ensure a high average speed.