Bob Jungels of Etixx-Quick Step won the first stage of the Tour of Oman on his own with a handy 6 second advantage by the time he crossed the line. Serge Pauwels of Dimension Data and Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale completed the podium.
Stage 1 of this year’s race took the field 145.5km to Al Bustan from the Oman Exhibition Center. The field is a strong and diverse one, with fast finishers like Alexander Kristoff of Katusha, Andrea Guardini of Astana, Sam Bennett of Bora-Argon18 and Gianni Meersmann of Etixx-Quick Step featuring alongside GC challengers Vincenzo Nibali of Astana, Richie Porte of BMC Racing, Tom Dumoulin of GIANT-Alpecin and Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale.
Kiwis George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo and Shane Archbold of Bora-Argon18 also lined up. The former is taking to his first race since the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, while the latter has just come away from the Tour of Qatar; where Archbold was instrumental in assisting with three top 6 finishes for Sam Bennett.
The opening stage was rolling enough to entice a breakaway and five riders duly obliged. Kenny Dehaes of Wanty Groupe Gobert and Christoph Pfingsten of Bora-Argon18 attacked and were joined by Pieter Vanspebrouck of Topsport-Vlaanderen Baloise, Peter Koning of Drapac Pro Cycling and Berden De Vries of Roompot Oranje Peloton. With no urgency at all in the main field the break’s advantage exploded to 6 minutes after just 15km of racing.
Astana and BMC Racing took principle responsibility for the chase effort, and the wind conditions also aided the bunch’s efforts to bring the break back. The break was swept up with under 30km left on the climb of Al Hamriyah; one of two KOM points in the stage; with the last one peaking just 5.5km from the finish.
Attacks from the field came and went, with the field breaking up considerably. Interestingly one of the riders to fall off the pace was one of the pre-race favourites in Richie Porte. In fact such was the intensity on the final climb that just a group of 18 riders were left at the front of the race; the steep gradients of the final climb did nothing to aide a bunch sprint for that matter. But for Bob Jungels the downhill towards the finish presented him with the perfect opportunity to slip away; and he did just that. Jungels, in his first year for Etixx-Quick Step after moving from Trek Factory Racing, crossed the line arms aloft and will enjoy a slim but handy advantage as the race heads for the short summit finish to Quriyat tomorrow.
George Bennett rounded out the top 40 on the stage, arriving home in a group that included Gerald Ciolek the former Milan-San Remo champion and Astana’s Andrey Grivko. Archbold’s teammate Patrick Konrad managed to make it into the first group on the road 8 seconds down on Jungels; allowing Archbold to roll home with Katusha’s Jacopo Guarnieri.