The Tour of Oman will host at least four Grand Tour hopefuls in February, including Vincenzo Nibali and Tom Dumoulin

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Grand Tour hopefuls Vincenzo Nibali, Richie Porte, Romain Bardet and Tom Dumoulin will be among the starters of the Tour of Oman (February 16-21).

Defending champion Rafael Valls will also return with his new team Lotto-Soudal, having taken the leader’s jersey on the queen stage to the Green Mountain.

The route up the mountain – the defining climb of the race in its seven year history – is now 1.8km longer, bringing the total distance to 7.5km at an average gradient of 10.7 per cent.

Dumoulin and Nibali will be using the testing six-stage race to prepare for May’s Giro d’Italia, while the race fits into Porte and Bardet’s long build-up to the Tour de France in May.

Two-time winner Chris Froome will be absent, however, with Team Sky preferring not to send a team to the race in 2016.

2016 Tour of Oman stages

Tuesday 16 February, stage 1: Oman Exhibition Center > Al Bustan, 145.5 km
Wednesday 17 February, stage 2: Omantel Head Office > Quriyat, 162 km
Thursday 18 February, stage 3: Al Sawadi Beach > Naseem Park, 176.5 km
Friday 19 February, stage 4: Knowledge Oasis Muscat > Jabal Al Akhdar, 177 km
Saturday 20 February, stage 5: Yiti (Al Sifah) > Ministry of Tourism, 119.5 km
Sunday 21 February, stage 6: The Wave Muscat > Muttrah Corniche, 130.5 km