Coquard claims opening stage

Despite a chaotic final, French cyclist Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) battled through to bag his first win of the season at the opening stage of the Tour of Oman 2018. Stage 1 kicked off from the parking area of Nizwa Souq (Market) in the Wilayat of Nizwa in the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah. The finish line of Stage 1 was at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in Al Seeb in the Governorate of Muscat. The Vital Concept rider crossed the line a bike length ahead of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Trek-Segafredo’s Giacomo Nizzolo, the Briton forced to start his sprint from too far back.
The relatively easy pace of the day meant a fresh peloton prevented any one team establishing a clear lead on the three lane roads in the final kilometres. Coquard has shown form this season with four podium finishes, but had been unable to taste a victory until today, so was understandably pleased with his day’s work. “I wanted to win and this first stage of the Tour of Oman is perfect,” the 25-year-old sprinter said after the podium celebrations, where he also took the race leader’s jersey. “I had a very good lead out and a perfect sprint for me. “I lost a stage in [Etolie de] Besseges race, because I celebrated and Laporte arrived and took the win, and today when I sprinted I sprinted all the way to the finish line so I am happy.”
In what was a relatively routine day, four riders escaped the peloton within the opening two kilometres of the 162.5 km stage between Nizwa and the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).
The quartet of Maxime Farazijn (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Pierre Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Samsic), Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) and Brian van Goethem (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) were allowed to escape by the bunch, and built an advantage of 4.30 with just 15 kilometres gone. A combination of undulating roads through the craggy Omani hills west of Muscat, and the break jockeying for position for the first intermediate sprint reduced their lead to 2-50. Perichon won that sprint, bagging the three bonus seconds, after which the gap once again increased to over three minutes, where it remained fairly static.
With around 100km gone a combination of UAE Team Emirates, Rally Cycling, and Cofidis managed the front of the pack, keeping the break at arms length, eventually then reeling them in at their leisure.
Perichon bagged the second sprint of the day with 25 km to go, and was the first to return to clutches of the peloton with 11 km left of the day, with his fellow escapees caught just one kilometre later.
Dr Ali bin Saud al Bimani, SQU Vice-Chancellor, handed over awards and jerseys of Stage One to winners. He stressed the importance of the 2018 Tour of Oman in promoting for the Sultanate’s history and civilisation, marvellous natural scenes and unique geology and tourism potentials in different governorates of the Sultanate as the Tour of Oman 2018 is associated with wide global media coverage. The 2018 Tour of Oman will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) with Stage 2 from Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) to Al Bustan, covering 167.5 kilometres. There are four major climbs along the way, including the final one of Barr Al Jissah just five kilometres from the line. The race concludes on February 18. — ONA