Gorilla in a fast car in Oman. That was the big news on stage one of the Tour of Oman, the Paris-Roubaix of the desert.
Andre Greipel, nicknamed the Gorilla, blasted by Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) so fast that the Russian claimed Greipel went by him “like a car.” That makes perfect sense down in Oman where few of the locals ride bikes and gas is cheap.
Post race analysis in Wadi Al Hoqay was that Greipel had big thighs, was super strong, incredibly powerful and looked very German. World Champion and nemesis Marl Cavendish was held up — according to the Sky media machine — by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). 67th place is where the rainbow jersey finished up.
The finish was not only slightly uphill but maddeningly hard to judge — a finish line miracle in the desert. Farrar went too early, Galimzyanov made a better guess but it was Greipel who judged best. “We stuck to our plan with 2km to go,” Greipel said. “Adam Hansen went, then Jens Debusschere, Marcel Sieberg, Greg Henderson and me. I felt I was a bit too early in the wind so I let two guys in and then with 200 metres to go I opened my sprint.”
Car takes win over everyone — including Goss, Kittel, Sagan and Guardini. It’s back to the Shangri La Resort Hotel for a sip of champagne.
There’s already talk that Greipel seems to have taken a definite step up in speed and confidence. Nobody is ready to say he can match the acceleration of Cavendish but right now Greipel is The Man Most Likely To Beat Cav. We’ll see how that works out in the Giro and France. Just because you nailed a stage in the Belgium of the Middle East doesn’t mean much later in the season.
Not only has Greipel picked up another gear but his train is now a well-drilled machine. In particular Greg Henderson has brought authority and experience to the lead-outs. While Greipel is by nature big on understatement, he’s still thrilled to have Henderson in the bunch sprint.
“He brings a lot of experience for the lead-out trains. I can trust him, he’s always there where you can decide a race,” Greipel said. “I come more relaxed to the finish because I just follow him. It takes a big pressure off my shoulder because I don’t need to fight for the position.”
Famed Middle Eastern cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam witnessed Greipel’s dominant sprint into Wadi Al Hoqay. “He is like an Arabian stallion in lycra. The others must find their daggers or they shall be as obedient as schoolgirls,” said Salaam.
Stay tuned for more news from the Big O, the Duel in the desert, the Paris-Roubaix of the shifting sands.