Guardini Draws First Blood at Oman Tour
Andrea Guardini (Astana) has won the first stage of the Tour of Oman. The Italian took a bunch sprint to win the flattish, 161-km ride from Bayt Al Naman Castle to Al Wutayyah in 3:45:38. Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) finished second, and Patrick Konrad (Bora-Argon 18) took third. Guardini is the race’s first overall leader.
Early season races take place in places such as the Mediterranean and the Middle East because the peloton wants to begin its season in warm weather. The bunch will get its wish and then some in Oman. By the end of the stage, today’s temperature was nearly 30 degrees Celsius. The heat, however, did not deter Johan van Zyl (MTN-Qhubeka), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Argon 18), Simone Andreetta (Bardiani-CSF), and Jef van Meirhaeghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). The fearsome foursome sallied off of the front in the opening km and led the field by 5:15 at 17 km. Katusha took over at the front and had cut the escapees’ advantage to 3:15 at 47.5 km.
At 76 km, Van Zyl bade adieu to his companions. Eleven km later, the South African led them by one minute and the peloton by 4:10. The bunch reeled in the chase group at 93 km while Van Zyl dangled out front until 126 km.
The run into Al Wutayyah was long and straight. Etixx-Quick Step took over at the front to set up Boonen. The Belgian squad led the field into the homestretch, but Boonen, in part because he feared being boxed in, jumped too soon. Guardini came from behind in the last 50 m to take the win.
In the overall, Guardini leads Boonen by 0:04 and Konrad by 0:05. Stage 2 will be another sprinter’s stage. The rolling, 195-km run from Al Hazm Castle to Al Bustan will end with a descent to the one-km banner followed by a slight climb to the finish. Will Guardini win again? Will Boonen and Etixx-Quick Step get it right? Will Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) take the win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!