The Tour of Oman 2022 will feature the hardest overall parcours the race has ever seen, with four of the five stages finishing up a climb. Pure W/Kg climbers like Jan Hirt or Louis Meintjes will be happy with 10%+ gradient finishes and consistency throughout the week will be very important as every stage finish is hard.
Provisional Start List
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The easiest stage of the race is the first, culminating in a slight uphill finish. This might be the only stage where sprinters like Mark Cavendish, Tim Merlier, Max Kanter, Pascal Ackermann, and Alan Banaszek have a real shot at winning because the following four stages all include a hard uphill finish. Despite this being a relatively easy finish, there is a 2 kilometre 4% shallow climb cresting 8 kilometres from the line. This should not be a problem for sprinters except for making everyone more fatigued before the 700 metre uphill finish that is around 3% gradient.
If Pascal Ackermann is in any decent form (which he was not in during Saudi Tour) he should be going well on this finish as he can get over hills better than many of the other sprinters and as shown in Tour de Pologne last year, he is still powerful on a short uphill finish. Cavendish and Merlier will debut for their new teams in the new hilly one-day race Muscat Classic but this might be their first and only real chance to test their legs in a sprint from the peloton.
The first stage for climbers ends with the frequently used Quravyat hill (2.6km, 7.1%). The stage will not be the easiest as there are 2000 climbing metres before the puncheur’s finish.
Quravyat is not a regular climb as there is a flatter section in the last kilometre before the 10%+ sector in the end. There should not be big gaps but it is the first hard uphill finish and will be clear to see which climbers is in good shape.
In the 2022 race, Jan Hirt attacked early on the flatter section but was overtaken in the final 100 metres by Uno-X Danish climber Anthon Charmig. The Norwegian team will take the start in Oman again this year but without Charmig.
Alexey Lutsenko won on this climb in 2019 and will be the Astana leader in 2023. Ulissi, Hirt, and Vansevenant might also do well. It will be curious to see how Cofidis’ Axel Zingle will perform on such a climb. This might be too hard for him but he performed very well in Mallorca’s one-day races and should be in decent shape.
The Tour of Oman organisers really like uphill finishes this year and Stage 3 ends with Jabal Haat (4.6 km, 7.7%) – the first time it is included in this race.
The 7.7% average gradient might be misleading as the last 1.6 kilometres average more than 12% and there is a false flat kilometre in the first 5 minutes of the climb. Lightweight climbers like Jan Hirt, Ivan Ramiro Sosa, and Louis Meintjes will benefit from the steep gradients as they are close to 60 kg and have performed on steep gradients in the past.
The final 20 kilometres of stage 4 are reminiscent of Italian autumn classics with repeated punchy climbs close together. The final 30 minutes of the race will be hard as, attacks might fly from teams with multiple GC riders and the final goes up Yitti Hills (1.7 km, 5.9%).
The first kilometre of the climb is 7.6% but the last 700 metres are shallow – potentially bringing a rider like Axel Zingle into play. Instead of the wet descents many of these riders endured in Mallorca, they will likely race this circuit in 25-30C heat – perhaps young star Cian Uijtdebroeks can take his first pro victory here in Oman.
The Queen stage of Oman. If there are no crosswinds, there will be very low kilojoules before the pure climbing effort on the Jabal Al Akhdhar climb (5.7 km, 10.37%).
It is a very hard climb, with the final 1.7 kilometres are the steepest with gradients going way above 10%+ for extended periods. The race leader Fausto Masnada in the 2022 edition cracked hard in the middle and lost almost two minutes to Jan Hirt, who eventually won the GC.
The climbing record is owned by Rafael Valls who climbed it in 18 minutes and 28 seconds in 2015. Valls produced 6.62 ᵉw/kg. Jan Hirt in 2022 was 71 seconds slower than Valls but the Czech climber attacked late with Rein Taaramae doing a monster pull. Hirt’s time would be way better if his power output was more steady but he saved everything for the steep part at the end as it is way easier to drop competitors on steep gradients due to the significantly reduced drafting effect.
Tour of Oman is a February race but Chris Froome (2014) and Rafael Valls (2015) reached the Grand Tour’s winner (yellow) trendline in the past editions. For the Sky era, these definitely were very high ᵉw/kg performances and at least the Top 20 best pure ᵉw/kg performance in Froome’s career.
There are four hard uphill finishes and consistency will be the key. Jan Hirt (2022) and Alexey Lutsenko (2018, 2019) have both won this race in the past. Lutsenko usually performs well on easy unipuerto stages and has done well in early season races throughout his career. He won his first race in 2022 - the first edition of the Spanish gravel race in Jaen.
Movistar climber Ivan Ramiro Sosa usually gets his best results on low kilojoule races with a steep uphill finish and the heat should suit him. But he is not the most consistent rider in the world and might have an off-day.
Cian Uijtdebroeks is one of the best biggest talents in cycling and is only 19 years old. In 2023 he will almost certainly improve and his 2022 performances in Tour de l'Avenir and against pro riders in UCI races were promising. We cannot wait to see how Uijtdebroeks will perform on these steep w/kg climbs. He has not won a pro race yet but it would not be a huge surprise if he pulls off something in Oman. Bora-Hansgrohe has sent a good climbing team with Emanuel Buchmann, Giovanni Aleotti, Ben Zwiehoff and Uijtdebroeks. Ide Schelling and Florian Lipowitz are also decent at climbing.
Louis Meintjes, Rein Taaramae, Davide Formolo, Diego Ulissi, Fausto Masnada, Cristian Rodriguez, Geoffrey Bouchard, Jesus Herrada, Matteo Jorgenson, Carlos Verona, Roger Adria, Eduardo Sepulveda and Sylvain Moniquet are other riders who might perform on hard climbs. Bouchard has always performed well in the UAE Tour. His results on Jebel Hafeet have been consistently improving - 18th in 2019, 26th and 12th in 2020, 10th in 2021 and 9th in 2022.
It is an early-season race and it is very hard to predict who will perform. Intermarché - Circus - Wanty has started the season powerfully and Taaramae after Rwanda's high-altitude camp might arrive in great shape. Meintjes performs well on steep climbs but I will pick Cian Uijtebroeks. It is crazy to pick a 19-year-old and the pure w/kg climbs with 10%+ gradients might not suit him as well as 7-8% climbs but Uijtdebroeks is a huge talent. He is unlikely to win the Tour of Oman and will not be one of the main favourites, probably an outsider but he is very likely to take a big leap in 2023. Maybe not in an early-season race but who knows?
Kārlis Ozols (@CyclingGraphs)
Arriesgada apuesta, yo me voy con uno probado, Lutsenko. El equipo ha empezado flojo la temporada y preferirá apostar desde ya por carreras donde no están los mejores gallos para empezar a sumar.