AFP / Yuzuru Sunada
Andre Greipel of Germany won a sprint finish to the first stage of the Tour of Oman cycle race in Muscat on Tuesday. Greipel, who became the first rider to don the leader’s red jersey, edged ahead of Australia’s Leigh Howard and Nicola Ruffoni of Italy crossing the finishing line at Nassen Garden. Greipel, who rides for the Lotto team, has got his season off to a fine start with two stage wins in Australia, in the Tour Down Under, and another in last week’s Tour of Qatar.
“This proves I’ve lost none of my edge when it comes to speed, but it also shows the team is very strong, the guys all worked hard and no-one but us deserved to win today,” he said
Greipel did have a moment of doubt in the final run-in as as he found himself trailing a rapid breakaway, but the team came to his rescue.
“It was an awkward moment but Lars Bak put in the work to get me back to the front,” Greipel added.
For Tour de France winner Chris Froome, the race favourite, things do not really begin in earnest until Thursday with the first of the climbs. In the meantime, the sprinters have another day in the limelight on Wednesday with a 139 kilometer ride on the flat from Al Bustan to Quriyat. Froome said his success last year had made him more relaxed coming into the Tour of Oman, which he won last year.
“There’s less pressure because I’m not here to gain experience as a leader,” the 28-year-old Kenyan-born Briton said. “It was critical last year but this year I feel more relaxed but I’m still motivated,” he added.
Froome said his winter training in South Africa meant he was “acclimatised already to the heat”.
Asked the inevitable questions about doping, Froome acknowledged it would “take a little more time” for people to regain confidence in the sport.
“I think it’s going to take a few consecutive Tour wins that aren’t ruined by doping cases,” he said.
Tour of Oman Stage 1
1. André Greipel (GER/Lotto) 4:03:32
2. Leigh Howard (AUS) @ s.t. 3. Nicola Ruffoni (ITA)
4. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA)
5. Tom Boonen (BEL)
6. Michael Van Staeyen (BEL)
7. Steve Chainel (FRA)
8. Barry Markus (NED)
9. Alexander Kristoff (NOR)
10. Borut Bozic (SLO)
General Classification After Stage 1
1. André Greipel (GER/Lotto) 4:03:22
2. Leigh Howard (AUS) @ :04
3. Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) @ :06
4. Preben Van Hecke (BEL) @ s.t.
5. Niki Terpstra (NED) @ :07
6. Nicola Boem (ITA) @ s.t.
7. Stijn Devolder (BEL) @ :09
8. Alessandro Bazzana (ITA) @ s.t.
9. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) @ :10
10. Tom Boonen (BEL) @ s.t.