photo credits @ Tour of Oman
Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) is enjoying a great start of the year 2023: he became a father 11 days ago and was already able to dedicate a victory to his young son as he outsprinted his rivals in stage 1 of the Tour of Oman 2023. The Belgian National champion takes his first victory on the road since joining Soudal Quick-Step in the off-season (he also won a cyclo-cross in January). In front of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Center, he got the best of David Dekker (Arkéa-Samsic) and Axel Zingle (Cofidis). This should be the only opportunity for sprinters this week, on the eve of a first summit finish in Qurayyat.
As soon as the peloton head away from Al Rustaq Fort, three attackers get on the move: Rodrigo Alvarez (Burgos-BH), Said Al Rahbi (Oman National Team) and Jeroen Meijers (Terengganu Polygon). They bring their gap up to a maximum of 2’45’’ at km 13 but Tim Merlier’s Soudal Quick-Step quickly react to control the day towards a potential sprint.
Astana pulls for Cavendish, Meijers insists
The attackers cover 42.7km in the first hour and Alvarez dominates the first intermediate sprint of the day (km 60.1). Astana Qazaqstan also work at the front of the peloton as they try to deliver a first opportunity to sprint for Mark Cavendish, who came to Oman for his first races since he joined the Asian WorldTeam.
The gap sits between 1’30’’ and 2’ on the way to Fanja, where Meijers goes first atop the only climb of the day (km 92) to take 3 points in the most aggressive rider classification. The Dutch attacker keeps going with a gap of 2’ to the bunch. His two breakaway companions are distanced.
Meijers takes 3 more points in the intermediate sprint (km 101), followed by Al Rahbi and Alvarez. The two chasers are quickly caught by the bunch, trailing by 1’50’’. Bora-Hansgrohe also participate in the chase and Meijers is reeled in with 16km to go.
AG2R Citroën try to control the finale but Soudal Quick-Step move up to the front positions and Merlier delivers the victory for his new team, ahead of David Dekker (Arkéa-Samsic) and Axel Zingle (Cofidis).
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