Fewer WorldTour teams for Tour of Oman

As in the case of Tour of Qatar, there will be fewer WorldTour teams racing in the Tour of Oman next year. Of the 18 teams announced by ASO today, only eight are from the top tier, down from 13 this season.

Defending champion Rafael Valls moved to Lotto-Soudal, who were not invited to the Tour of Oman, but his former Lampre-Merida team will be on the start line, as will Etixx-QuickStep, who opted not to race Tour of Qatar.

Other WorldTour teams in the race include AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, BMC, Katusha, Dimension Data, Giant-Alpecin and LottoNL-Jumbo.

Team Sky, with two-time winner Chris Froome, was not on the list of invited teams, nor was Alberto Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo squad or Fabian Cancellara's Trek team.

The absence of the top teams opens the door for more Pro Continental squads. Invited were Bora-Argon 18, CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Cult Energy, Drapac, Fortuneo Vital Concept, Roompot, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, UnitedHealthcare and Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

Inclusion in the Tours of Oman and Qatar for the first time was important to Wanty-Groupe Gobert director Hilaire Van Der Schueren. "This is a step forward for the team which starts its sixth year in the Pro Continental division. ASO is a big organisation and they reward us for our attractive and attacking style of racing," he said.

Marco Marcato, the team captain, is looking forward to taking part in the events. "These races have a very high level with lots of WorldTour team," Marcato said. "The climate in the Gulf is great in February. The Tour of Qatar is characterized by a lot of wind and high speeds. In Oman there is a lot of altitude metres. It's two weeks of great racing. After the stages you can train extra kilometres because of the great climate. Qatar and Oman are races where you can really build on your form for the Spring Classics!"

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