MUSCAT, Feb 18, 2014 (AFP) – Andre Greipel of Germany won a sprint finish
to take the first stage of the Tour of Oman cycle race in Muscat on Tuesday.
Greipel, who became the first rider to don the leader’s red jersey, edged
ahead of Australia’s Leigh Howard and Nicola Ruffoni of Italy crossing the
finishing line at Nassen Garden.
Greipel, who rides for the Lotto team, has got his season off to a fine
start with two stage wins in Australia, in the Tour Down Under, and another in
last week’s Tour of Qatar.
“This proves I’ve lost none of my edge when it comes to speed, but it also
shows the team is very strong, the guys all worked hard and no one but us
deserved to win today,” he said.
Greipel did have a moment of doubt in the final run-in as as he found
himself trailing a rapid breakaway, but the team came to his rescue.
“It was an awkward moment but Lars Bak put in the work to get me back to
the front,” Greipel added.
For Tour de France winner Chris Froome, the race favorite, things do not
really begin in earnest until Thursday with the first of the climbs.
In the meantime, the sprinters have another day in the limelight on
Wednesday with a 139 kilometer ride on the flat from Al Bustan to Quriyat.
Froome said his success last year had made him more relaxed coming into the
Tour of Oman, which he won last year.
“There’s less pressure because I’m not here to gain experience as a
leader,” the 28-year-old Kenyan-born Briton said.
“It was critical last year but this year I feel more relaxed but I’m still
motivated,” he added.
Froome said his winter training in South Africa meant he was “acclimatized
already to the heat”.
Asked the inevitable questions about doping, Froome acknowledged it would
“take a little more time” for people to regain confidence in the sport.
“I think it’s going to take a few consecutive Tour wins that aren’t ruined
by doping cases,” he said.
Results on Tuesday in the 164.5 kilometres
first stage of the Tour of Oman:
1. André Greipel (GER/Lotto) the 164.5 km in 4:03:32, 2. Leigh Howard (AUS)
same time, 3. Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) same time, 4. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) same
time, 5. Tom Boonen (BEL) same time, 6. Michael Van Staeyen (BEL) same time,
7. Steve Chainel (FRA) same time, 8. Barry Markus (NED) same time, 9.
Alexander Kristoff (NOR) same time, 10. Borut Bozic (SLO) same time.
1. André Greipel (GER/Lotto) 4:03:22, 2. Leigh Howard (AUS) at 4secs, 3.
Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) at 6secs, 4. Preben Van Hecke (BEL) at 6secs, 5. Niki
Terpstra (NED) at 7secs, 6. Nicola Boem (ITA) at 7secs, 7. Stijn Devolder
(BEL) at 9secs, 8. Alessandro Bazzana (ITA) at 9secs, 9. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA)
at 10secs, 10. Tom Boonen (BEL) at 10secs.