Marcel Kittel powers to stage 1 victory in 2013 Tour of Oman
At the start line in were many star riders including current and former Grand Tour champions Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky ProCycling), Cadel Evans (Team BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Team Astana) and Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) who take part in the Tour of Oman to get a sense of their current condition before they prepare further for this year's Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
The Tour of Oman got off to a hot start as Champion System's Bobbie Traksel immediately attacked after the official start of the 162 kilometer stage 1. He was soon joined by Team Japan's Kohei Uchima. The pair rapidly built a lead of nearly 9.5 minutes on the main peloton, with Traksel winning both intermediate sprints and being first over the top of the only categorized climb of the day. Traksel's hard work later earned him the most aggressive rider jersey.
However, the breakaway duo was doomed and with about thirty kilometers to go their lead was brought down to just 30 seconds. Uchima launched a solo attack and prolonged the breakaway for a while, but was eventually reeled in by the chasing peloton.
"We started the stage today with a good plan, we followed the plan all race, and I felt really confident that we would be able to work it out," stage winner Kittel explained and added "The entire team did such a good job first in leading the chase during the stage and then in bringing me to a good position in the final. It was really great teamwork today."
The Argos-Shimano team has had problems with sprints so far this season, but the stage victory has put any doubts to rest for Kittel. "This gives me confidence in my own fitness and in the performance of the team. It didn’t work out before, but we learned from the mistakes we made in the races earlier this year. Tomorrow we have another stage that will probably end in a sprint and I predict chances again in the last stage on Sunday."
Commenting on his decision to initiate today's breakaway Traksel told Roadcycling.com "I really wanted to get up the road and get good exposure for Champion System. I knew if I could make an escape I would have a chance for a jersey and it worked out really well."
Kittel won two stages in last year's edition of the Tour of Oman. It was Argos-Shimano's first race victory as a WorldTour team.
The 2013 Tour of Oman continues tomorrow with a 146 kilometer stage from Fanja-in-Bidbid to Al Bustan.