Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) said he had Christophe Laporte in the back of his mind as he sprinted to victory on the opening stage of the Tour of Oman on Tuesday. Coquard lost a sprint to the Cofidis rider at Etoile Besseges earlier this month when he began his victory salute before crossing the line.
He was not to be bitten a second time and made sure to go all the way to the line before lifting his arms in celebration. He took some big scalps in the process, beating Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Laporte's teammate Nacer Bouhanni.
"I lost the second stage of Etoile de Besseges because I started celebrating my win and Laporte arrived to my left and he won. Today, I was always looking at the line and I sprinted until the finish line and when I saw the line I knew that I had won, but I didn't see behind me," Coquard said after stepping onto the podium to take the first leader's jersey of the 2018 Tour of Oman.
"There are a lot of good sprinters here and I'm very happy to win in front of these big names in sprinting."
The victory is Coquard's first for his new squad Vital Concept and the nascent team's second ever after Julien Morice won the time trial at the Sharjah Tour last month. Coquard was brought in as the team's marquee rider with pressure on his shoulders to deliver them victories in the sprints. It had been a frustrating start with his new squad in that respect, with Jakub Mareczko getting the better of him on two occasions at the Sharjah Tour, and Marc Sarreau and Laporte besting him at Etoile de Besseges. Despite those early setbacks, Coquard came into the race brimming with confidence and it paid off.
"I have three second places and a third place at the start of the season and I would like to win. On this first stage of the Tour of Oman, it was perfect with a very good lead-out and a perfect sprint from me. I'm very happy."
The first stage of the Tour of Oman was a fairly straightforward affair for the peloton but that will change on stage 2. The 167.5km stage from Sultan Qaboos University to Al Bustan is a regular at the Tour of Oman and the final ascent of Al Jissah is not long but can do some damage to the peloton. Previous winners on the stage have included Ben Hermans, Bob Jungels and Fabian Cancellara. Fellow sprinter Andre Greipel has also put his name among the winners and Coquard is hoping to add his name to that list.
"Tomorrow will be a very difficult stage in the final, and I don't know if I can win but maybe I can."