Why the Tour of Oman rocks. A quick treatise.
We love it because it isn’t six days of flat straight roads like the Qatari warm-up exercise. Qatar was bread and butter, Oman is the specialty of the maison.
It has the beautiful and challenging Jabal al Akhdhar, the Green Mountain. We just like saying the words and spelling them out. Gives us that stage race meets 1001 Arabian Nights feeling.
Eddy Merckx is in charge. That’s right — course planning by the Cannibal himself. You won’t hear riders whining about the route because nobody offends the champ of champions.
There’s no social and political unrest, at least not this second. The Sultan has things squared away and there will be none of this rabble in the streets action. Bikes on the road, yes. revolution no. In fact, look at the question of stability in the Middle East — countries with Western stage races, happy, countries without, in flames.
A rainbow in the desert. How’s that for two wheel poetry? Norwegian Thor Hushovd in the rainbow striped jersey of world champion riding across the desert. There should be songs written about this.
The beautiful landscapes of Oman. This country rocks, touristically speaking. We wish we had a ticket and someday we will. Qatar was a golf course and a camel race track and a few runs around Doha. Oman has it all — mountains, seashore, beach, valleys, mysterious arab women in full robes giving you smoldering looks.
It’s tifosi-free. That’s right. Crowds may be sparse but at least there are no drunken yahoos running alongside in a thong or devil suit. Fans here are still learning the game and that’s charming. And those “Go Boasson Hagen” signs in Arabic will be priceless.
There’s no history whatsoever. One of the many joys of cycling is the rich history, the iconic places, storied climbs, the tales of old battles and yesteryear’s heroes. But it’s a nice refresher to focus on the race without the historical baggage. Nobody bores the crap out of you with how Coppi conquered Jabal al Akhdhar decades ago.
BMC’s Taylor Phinney is riding the Big O. Yeah, he’s the next great American biking something-or-other. A genuinely nice guy, down to earth and supremely talented.
Oman is a long way from the Spanish Cycling Federation in Madrid. Right now, that’s probably a good thing. It will be an even better thing tomorrow when the bomb goes off.
The ancient history of Oman is closely linked to that of Sinbad the Sailor, the frankincense of the three wise men and perhaps the elusive city of Ubar, romanticised as The Atlantis of the Sands. How’s that for a little pre-ProTour history. Not even Garmin-Cervelo’s Jonathan Vaughters knows that.
There are no feed zones. Just an oasis in the distance. Riders dismount, drink from the cool waters, chow down a few succulent dates and pomegranates and then off they go again. The Omani people just don’t believe in the whole grab the feedbag thing.
The Tour of Oman. Roll with it, get your sheik on, revel in its singular charms.