HTC-Columbia is looking to make Italian time trial specialist Marco Pinotti the first Tour of Oman winner next week, according to sport director Valerio Piva. While the squad will also have strong sprint representation, it’s looking to protect Pinotti through to the final day’s time trial.
"We're bringing in Marco Pinotti especially for Oman because he'll be good for that time trial," said Piva. "Then we've got Bernhard and Leigh Howard, who are both fast riders, for the sprints too.
"We'll try to protect Marco so he doesn't lose any time in the first five days,” he added. “He hasn't done Qatar like some of the other time-triallists who'll be taking part, so he should be fresher. We're definitely feeling optimistic about his chances."
Pinotti will be just one of two riders in HTC-Columbia’s Oman roster that aren’t competing in this week’s Tour of Qatar. Australia’s Leigh Howard will join Pinotti and five other teammates who are currently in Qatar.
HTC-Columbia’s Bernhard Eisel believes the final stage’s 18 kilometre individual time trial will shape tactics throughout the race. The ITT is preceded by five road stages, which are hillier than those in Qatar. The time trial circuit on February 19 will run through the streets of Muscat, Oman’s capital city.
"The time-trial being on the last stage will shape events a lot,” said Eisel. “The teams, like us, with time trial specialists will try to control the race so they get to that last day in a good position.
"It's probably not going to be such a nervous race as Qatar, although it's hillier too, so it won't be straightforward,” he added. "Normally at this point in the season I get in a stage win at the Tour of the Algarve in Portugal and hopefully history will repeat itself in Oman."
HTC-Columbia Tour of Oman roster: Lars Bak (Den), Gert Dockx (Bel), Bernhard Eisel (Aut), Adam Hansen (Aus), Leigh Howard (Aus), Marco Pinotti (Ita) and Martin Velits (Svk).