MUSCAT: Champion Jan Hirt is back to defend his title in Oman, joining 2022 edition runner-up Fausto Masnada in Soudal Quick-Step team for the 12th edition on Tour of Oman from February 11 to 15.
The 147.4-km first stage of the iconic cycling race will begin from Al Rustaq Fort and end at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) on February 11.
British rider Mark Cavendish, who has 34 Tour de France stages to his name, makes his debut with Astana Qazaqstan Team led by two-time Tour of Oman champion Alexey Lutsenko.
The 2023 edition in Oman also hosts another race, Muscat Classic, on the eve of the championship.
The first edition of Muscat Classic road race will start at Al Mouj Muscat and conclude at Al Bustan for a distance of 173.7 km on February 10.
Organising committee chairman Basil bin Ahmed al Rawas, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, said 2023 edition will be special with the start of Muscat Classic.
“Designed over five days, this year’s course is packed with climbing. Riders will return to Qurayat and discover new climbs in the coastal area of Yiti and up the ascent of Jabal Haat. The road will rise until the very last moment and the winner of the Tour of Oman 2023 will be crowned after a final battle on the slopes of Jabal Al Akhdhar, the iconic ‘Green Mountain’. Thrilling racing and exceptional views are in sight,” Al Rawas enthused.
Among the field, fast men such as Pascal Ackermann, puncheurs like Davide Formolo and climbers as talented as Emanuel Buchmann and Cian Uijtdebroeks also eye success on the explosive course of the Muscat Classic and the demanding roads of the Tour of Oman.
Among the teams, Belgium’s Soudal Quick-Step has made a major step by fielding Czech climbing specialist Hirt along with Masnada for a ‘climbing heavy’ Tour of Oman.
The Wolfpack is once again expected to shine in the desert, with other assets such as Mauri Vansevenant to shake the race and Tim Merlier to show his speed.
Kazakhstan’s Astana Qazaqstan Team offers formidable challenge for the title with Cavendish joining Lutsenko.
Lutsenko, who had won the title in 2018 and 19, has won stages up Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) and in Al Bustan. Cavendish has two stage wins in Oman to his credit. Under-23 world champion Yevgeniy Fedorov also looks to make his mark.
Kristoffer Halvorsen, U23 world champion in 2016, is the road captain for Uno-X as the Norwegian keeps growing towards their first participation in the Tour de France.
Hirt’s former team, Intermarche-Circus-Wanty of Belgium, will mount strong challenge for the honours.
Estonia’s Rein Taaramae, who was an essential asset to propel the Czech climber towards victory in 2022, partners up with pocket climber Louis Meintjes. The South African made history last year with a stage win in La Vuelta and a place in the top 10 of the Tour de France.
Strong contenders UAE Team Emirates also line up a top sprinter in Pascal Ackermann, along with punchy options such as Diego Ulissi and Davide Formolo. Classic experts like AG2R Citroen’s Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen will also be willing to bring battle on any occasion while climbers such as Ivan Sosa (Movistar) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) eye the final battles up Green Mountain, where Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) hopes to shine again (third in 2018, sixth in 2019).
Buchmann will join forces with the winner of the 2022 Tour de l’Avenir, Cian Uijtdebroeks. The Belgian wonderkid will face stiff competition from other young talents like Andrii Ponomar (Team Arkea-Samsic), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny), Roger Adria (Equipo Kern Pharma) and Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar).
Oman national champion Faisal al Mamari, 23, will lead the local challenge in the famed race.
18 teams: The main participants
Bingoal WB: Kenneth Van Rooy
Intermarche-Circus-Wanty: Louis Meintjes
Lotto Dstny: Thomas De Gendt, Maxim Van Gils
Soudal Quick-Step: Jan Hirt, Tim Merlier
AG2R Citroen Team: Greg Van Avermaet, Oliver Naesen
Cofidis: Jesus Herrada, Axel Zingle
Team Arkéa-Samsic: Jenthe Biermans, Andrii Ponomar
Bora-Hansgrohe: Emanuel Buchmann, Cian Uijtdebroeks
JCL Team Ukyo: Benjamin Prades
Astana Qazaqstan Team: Mark Cavendish, Alexey Lutsenko
Terengganu Polygon Cycling: Jambaljamts Sainbayar
Uno-X Pro Cycling Team: Kristoffer Halvorsen
Oman National Team: Faisal Almammari
Burgos-BH: Miguel Angel Fernandez
Equipo Kern Pharma: Roger Adria
Movistar: Ivan Sosa, Matteo Jorgenson
United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: Pascal Ackermann, Davide Formolo
United States of America
Human Powered Health: Stanislaw Aniolkowski