Muscat – The 13th Tour of Oman, scheduled for February 10 to 14, will serve up a five-course menu catering to all tastes, from sprinters and punchers to climbers. Its two iconic climbs – Eastern Mountain (Stage 3) and Green Mountain (Stage 5) – will be tough nuts to crack at this point of the season.
Battle-hardened favourites such as Adam Yates, Emanuel Buchmann and Jesús Herrada will have to keep a close eye on stars in the making such as the whiz kid Isaac del Toro and the new French kids on the block, Antoine Huby, Paul Magnier and Alexy Faure-Prost.
As preamble to the 868km Tour of Oman 2024, the big guns will fire the opening salvo on February 9 in the second edition of Muscat Classic, on a 174.3km course with an average gradient of 10% that is the perfect launch pad for a puncher to launch a searing attack, according to organisers.
Muscat Classic starts from Al Mouj and ends at Al Bustan Street taking riders through the climbs of Bausher-Amerat road and Hamriya.
Sprinters know well that their climber colleagues will have to wait for their day in the sun in the Tour of Oman. Alexander Kristoff, the most prolific stage hunter in the history of the race, is determined to take his tally to ten victories, but he will have to contend with rivals such as Caleb Ewan, Fabio Jakobsen, Bryan Coquard and the precocious Paul Magnier, who let his raw speed do the talking in Spain in the first race of the season.
The Norwegian will have but one shot at this goal, considering that the summit finish of Stage 2 to Quriyat, a 2.6km ascent at an average gradient of 7%, is probably more than he can handle.
In Stage 3, the finish on Eastern Mountain will take the riders over the 1,000m mark for the first time in the week and, perhaps, the season. The climbers will cross swords on this 4.6km ascent at 8.5%.
After this litmus test comes the up-and-down profile of Stage 4, featuring the Yitti Hills, where Diego Ulissi will be coming back for seconds after his win in 2023. However, the moment of truth will come on the slopes of Jabal Akhdar, or Green Mountain, where Mauri Vansevenant came a single second short of taking the win from Matteo Jorgenson last year.
The Belgian is out to get his own back, but he will be facing other rivals this time round. Adam Yates constitutes the main threat in his first participation in the race, but there are a host of riders eager to use the slopes as springboards to success: Emanuel Buchmann, Isaac del Toro, Louis Meintjes, Jesús Herrada, Cristian Rodríguez and Warren Barguil have also thrown their hats into the ring.