After finishing third in his first sprint of the year at the opening stage of the Tour of Oman, Australian youngster Kaden Groves improved to second place on day two of the race, finishing behind a superb sprint from Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) at Suhar Corniche.
The 23-year-old, who is at the start of his third season at BikeExchange-Jayco, is running with an equally young team in Oman with only Cameron Meyer over the age of 25.
The seven-man squad, which includes two neo-pros for 2022, helped deliver Groves to his second podium in two days in a field also containing stage 1 winner Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates).
After 167.5 kilometres of frankly not overly enthralling – or taxing, for the riders – racing up the north-eastern coast of the country, the pan-flat stage delivered the sprint finish all onlookers expected, though Groves outpaced both Gaviria and Amaury Capiot (Arkéa-Samsic) to grab second behind a Cavendish surge around the outside which looked unstoppable.
Speaking following the podium ceremony which saw him don the white young rider's jersey once again, Groves said that it was another good result to add to his early season collection, though there was just no way to outpace Cavendish along the seafront on Friday.
"Yeah [it was a] pretty good day. A pretty risky job by the boys – we left it pretty late, but it paid off and it was really good with a smaller peloton like this," Groves said. "It worked out in the end, and we had numbers in the final.
"Maybe [we went] a little bit early so I decided to drop back to Gaviria's wheel. Yeah, in the end pretty happy with my run to the line but Mark is just too quick here so…"
Groves said that he had lost some positions in the peloton on the final turns before the finishing straight, which featured a crosswind, though not one which caused the splits predicted before the stage.
"I thought maybe we were a little far forward, so I lost a few positions through the right- and left-handers at 1.5 kilometres to go," he said. "But I was pretty happy to be in that position so there's no stress and then we just waited to run from behind – especially with the wind the way it was.
"It wasn't too bad to start a bit further back, but now it's a really good job by the boys to keep the pace high."
Groves also had further praise for his teammates, including those neo-pros Kelland O'Brien and Campbell Stewart, who are among the group working together for the first time in the sprint train. A cluster of challenging days in the hills and mountains lie ahead, but they'll get one final chance to lead out a sprint for stage 6, Tuesday's finale to Matrah Corniche.
"It's the first race with Kell and Campbell – they're both track guys themselves, so they've got a lot of power here and it's really good to build this relationship.
"Hopefully, we can continue working together in the future and after two sprints already were doing a really good job. So, I mean it's looking good for the rest of the year."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.