The 2020 Haute Route season got off to a flying start today in Oman, with 120 riders taking on the daunting challenge of the Jebel Akhdar mountain climb with the first 14km averaging 10.3%.
Stage 1 of the three-day Haute Route Oman adventure saw an enthusiastic international field of amateur cyclists stream across the start line in Nizwa and head off into the Al Hajar mountain range.
A few minutes before setting off, James Rossiter, CEO of Léger, the event’s Official Clothing Supplier, was feeling a mix of anticipation and nervosity: “I’m super nervous for what I have to do. I’ve got no idea what we are in for. The climb looks amazing and Calvin will lead me up there.”
Calvin Watson, former professional cyclist, added: “We are ready for a fantastic day here at day one at Haute Route Oman. Very much looking forward to it, first time for me doing an Haute Route. Looking forward to the challenge going up great mountains this morning it’s going to be epic!”
Under blue skies and cool conditions, the peloton set a steady pace in the early stages, the riders staying close together in the safety convoy, before the long mountain climb stretched the field.
Refuelling atop Jebel Akhdar, Australian Will Levy, founder of Two Wheel Tours, was elated to be back in Oman: “It’s good to be back! Fourth time lucky in Oman.”
“Probably one of the hardest climbs I have ever done. And it’s not over yet! But I’m feeling good, excited for the rest”, said Donalrey Nieva from USA.
Riders then followed a very hilly road to make a U-turn at Hayl Al Hadab and headed back to the finish line at Jebel Akhdar Viewpoint. At the finish British rider Colin Peck led the way, ahead of fellow riders Paul Willcox and Alex Sherwin.
Colin Peck, who will receive the leader jersey tonight at the prizegiving ceremony, enjoyed himself on the first stage: “The legs are great, I’m feeling good. Hardest day I had on the bike probably ever. We were all suffering in the first ascent but it was good fun!”
Representing Royal Oman Police and competing in the Duo category, Mazin Al Ryami was very pleased by his result: “Stage 1 was great. Despite having a challenging elevation gain, I am very happy to have managed to cross the finish line in 2nd place. I had an intensive training for the event in the past month and half and it looks like it is paying off. I look forward to the coming days”.
Crossing the finish line in the first position in the women’s category, Laura Patrikainen from Finland, said: “I’m tired. It was steep and I’m happy it’s over. I’m ready for tomorrow”.
The fastest Duo team in the Men’s category was Army 1 and Team Archipelago in the Mixed category.
Tomorrow’s stage will take the field on a 144km course featuring 3,100 metres of climbing, with another long road climb up to Jebel Haat.