Tour of Oman begins today

World's leading cycling stars have descended upon Muscat to take part in the ninth edition of the Tour of Oman 2018, which begins in Nizwa on Tuesday.

The 2016 champion, Vincenzo Nibali, racing for Bahrain-Merida team, will start as the favourite to regain the overall title when the six-stage race concludes on Sunday.

He is expected to face a tough competition in the general classification from Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and  former world champion and last year's runner-up Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates).

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Officials of the Muscat Municipality and ASO address a press conference on the eve of the start of 2018 Tour of Oman race on Monday (Muscat Daily)

A host of sprinters are likely to be aiming at stage wins over a total distance of 914.5km with Team Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish, Nacer Bouhanni of Confidis Solutions Credits and Frenchman Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) among the favourites.

The 2018 route will consist of two flat out sprint days, three hilly routes and a final climber’s stage which is highly likely to decide the overall victory.

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Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida team

And on the undulated routes, a fight for the stage honours is expected between classics riders like Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates).

A total of 126 riders from 18 teams, including nine WorldTour teams, and from 27 countries will participate in the Tour, classified as 2.HC race. The Tour sits between the Dubai Tour that concluded on Saturday and the Abu Dhabi Tour (February 21-25) on the calendar.

The route of the Tour, the first event of the season for Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), is distinctly familiar to what it has been over the years, with plenty of rolling sprint stages punctuated by the climb of Jebel Akhdar on the penultimate day.

Tuesday’s opening race will see riders navigate a 162.5km route, starting from Nizwa, before heading to the coast for a finish at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).

The second stage will test the riders’ abilities, particularly that of the climbers as they embark on a 167.5km journey from SQU to Al Bustan, taking in climbs at Fanja, Al Jabal Street, Al Hamriya and Al Jissah.

Stage three is the longest as the 179.5km takes riders from GUtech to Wadi Dayqah Dam, while stage four is the shortest at 117.5km from Al Sifah to Ministry of Tourism in Al Khuwayr.

Stage five (152km) will be the first and only summit finish on the tour, with riders facing a 1,235m ascent to the finish at Jebel Akhdar.

A thrilling sprint finish awaits the final stage of 135.5km as riders look for a podium finish at the Muttrah Corniche, overlooking the Sea of Oman.

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