Lutsenko set to defend crown at Tour of Oman
Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept Club) won the opening stage of the 2018 Tour of Oman ahead of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), before Nathan Haas (Katusha Alpecin) stole stage 2 from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) in a heavily reduced bunch sprint to also claim the race lead.
Van Avermaet found retribution on stage 3 as he showed incredible power in the final kilometre to crack everyone on the final climb in Wadi Dayqah Dam to take the stage win and race lead.
Astana controlled the race brilliantly on stage 4 when it seemed the race was going to split apart. They pulled everything back together and the Dane Magnus Court Nielsen (Astana) took the win.
Stage 5 was where everything was decided on the general classification as the Astana duo of Miguel Ángel López and eventual race winner Alexey Lutsenko rode away from everybody. López took the stage and Lutsenko the race lead, which didn't change hands on the final stage the next day when the sprint was won by Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).
A decade in Oman
The 2019 Tour of Oman will be the 10th edition of the race, with it having taken place every year since 2010. The inaugural event consisted of five fairly flat stages and an individual time trial as the final stage, which ultimately decided who would take the overall classification. The winner of the 2010 race was Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) after he came second in the time trial to Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Team Sky).
Since then, the Tour of Oman has dropped the individual time trial and replaced it with a mountainous stage, which in past years has finished with the 5.7km climb of Green Mountain with an average gradient in excess of 10 per cent.
Chris Froome holds the record for the most general classification victories with two – a record that Alexey Lutsenko will be looking to equal at the 2019 race.
Ones to watch
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) didn't choose to really contest the general classification last year as he had only just started building towards the Tour de France, which he would end up retiring from following a crash. This season he is targeting the Giro, and so his physical and mental condition may mean he is far more up for winning the race this year.
Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) failed to hold onto the race lead when it came to the mountain stage last year. This year the same climb of Green Mountain will feature again, but if there are some splits that Van Avermaet is on the right side of in the opening four stages, you can't write off his chances of clinging on to the jersey.
But Lutsenko proved on that pivotal climb on the penultimate day last year that he and his teammate Miguel Ángel López were far and away the strongest. The Kazakh road race champion doesn't have López there with him this year, but it is still tough to see past the defending champion.