Sprint stars Fernando Gaviria and Mark Cavendish battled it out for a victory in the opening stage of Tour of Oman, a 139 kilometre stage that was made for sprinters despite the slight 3% rise in the last kilometre.
As expected the breakaway was caught with 10 kilometers to go. The longest survivor of the three men breakaway was Euskaltel – Euskadi rider Peio Goikoetxea who also had to contend with a stray plastic bag.
After that DSM, who did not bring a sprinter, started to pace for some time on the front for no immediately evident reason until their rider Søren Kragh Andersen attacked. A surprising move given the hilly stages that should suit a move from him in latter stages, and he was caught by the sprint trains very quickly.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team, who were working for Mark Cavendish, saved some energy in the peloton in the run-in, only moving to the front with 2 kilometres to go in their typical fashion.
Despite this, Quick-Step did not bring much firepower to this race and could not assemble a functional lead-out train for Cavendish with Steels, Van Tricht and Keisse. This was a far cry from the lead-outs for Cavendish in last year’s Tour de France, with him having to fight for other sprinters wheels at the end of this race. UAE-Team Emirates however, did everything by the book.
38-year-old Maximialiano Richeze proved that he is still a capable last lead-out man, at least at this level. Before this season he did not have a contract for a long time and he considered retirement, before UAE extended him for six months until after the Giro d’Italia. Gaviria was able to finish off Richeze’s work fairly comfortably, taking his 48th career pro win. Cavendish appeared to be faster than Gaviria but he began the sprint out of position and needed to overtake Australian Kaden Groves, costing him time and energy.
Stage 2 should be another bunch sprint affair, subject to the ever present threat of crosswinds in this part of the world. We should see Gaviria, Groves and Cavendish go head to head again, with Quickstep hoping to put Cavendish in a much better position than in today’s stage.