Greipel Powers to Victory in Stage 1 of Tour of Oman 2014
The German national champion did however have quite a scare when he found himself trapped in a dropped group within the last 25 kilometerss of the race. The pack eventually bunched up again, before the six-time Tour de France stage winner powered to glory, beating Leigh Howard (Team GreenEdge) and Team Bardiani's Nicola Ruffoni in the sprint and taking the red leader's jersey.
Wonderful weather conditions welcomed the riders of the 2014 Tour of Oman near the splendid As Suwayq Castle by the Sea of Oman, for the start of the first stage of the 5th edition of the race. Suffering from a fever caused by the flu, Frenchman Thibaut Pinot was sadly forced to abandon the race before even starting. A peloton consisting of 142 riders eventually took off for a 164.5 kilometer stage, which would take the riders all the way to Naseem Garden.
Anxious spectators only had to watch the riders for a few hundred meters before the first attack was initiated. Topsport Vlaanderen's Van Hecke and Wallays, Bardiani's Boem and United Healthcare's Bazzana managed to break away from the pack. With the bunch not too concerned about the escapees, the gap expanded rapidly reaching 2 minutes and 15 seconds at km five and then a maximum of 5 minites and 35 seconds at kilometer fifteen after which the Lotto-Belisol team decided to slowly take on the chase in order to protect its chances in the stage. At the top of the first climb of the day the breakaway group's advantage had dropped down to 4 minutes and 5 seconds.
At the first intermediate sprint (kilometer 78) won by Boem in front of Van Hecke and Bazzana, the pack remained 3 minutes and 15 seconds behind. The Greenedge, FDJ.fr and Omega Pharma–Quickstep joined the front of the main peloton group and the front men were caught at kilometer 142.
Following a right turn, the peloton was split into echelons as a result of strong cross winds. Trapped behind were riders such as Greipel and Joaquin Rodriguez. The second bonus sprint (kilometer 148) was claimed by Tour of Qatar winner Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) ahead of Van Hecke and Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) while the dropped group was 20 seconds behind.
Thankfully for the thirty riders behind, the pack slowed down and bunched up together again with ten kilometers to go. The stage was, therefore, set for a bunch sprint across the finish line on the long straight by Naseem Garden.
Last year's two-stage winner Greipel struck again and powered himself to glory. The German National champion beat Howard and Ruffoni to the line. Greipel who has already triumphed at the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Qatar this year thereby adds a fourth success to his 2014 victory list.
In addition to the overall race lead, Greipel also takes command of the points classification's silver jersey while Howard becomes best young rider of the race (White jersey). Part of the long escape of the day and having collected valuable points in the intermediate sprints and on the climb, Preben Van Hecke captures the most-aggressive rider’s jersey (White with green and red dots).