Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) came close to doubling his win tally for the year on the opening stage of the Tour of Oman, but the Manxman was edged out by a determined Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept), who claimed his first victory of the season.
Cavendish said afterwards that he left it too late to make his sprint after finding himself out of position on the long drag to the line.
"I'm happy with how I sprinted. If I'd started earlier, maybe I could have got him but I didn't," Cavendish told Cyclingnews at the finish line at the Sultan Qaboos University. "I was just too far back."
Cavendish started his season at the Dubai Tour last week, winning one stage and finishing fourth on another. The Tour of Oman was a late addition to his season when the team found themselves short in the roster for the Middle East race. He has opted to stay in the Middle East and race, rather than train at home. He was joined by his family at the finish of stage1.
Cavendish said ahead of the Tour of Oman that his main goal was to support his Dimension Data teammate Merhawi Kudus as he targets the general classification, but said he would try to mix it in the sprints. He had some assistance towards the end but dissuaded his teammates from stringing together a full lead-out for the finish.
"I said to the guys before just to be there, around about, but don't organise anything for me. I tried to follow Sunweb but it was a bit sketchy. In fact, it went alright but I just started a bit too late. I didn't judge how fast we'd be going in the final, I just started too late."
Stage 2, which starts in the same place as stage 1 finished, is unlikely to end in a bunch sprint with the climb of Al Jissah less than 10 kilometres from the finish and a steep ramp to the finish. The next few days will consist of plenty of teamwork for Cavendish and he will likely have to wait until the final stage to have another crack of the whip in Oman.
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