Haute Route Oman hit its stride on Saturday with the large field of international amateur cyclists taking on another challenging course in the heart of the Sultanate’s Al Hajar mountain range. Following on from the daunting opening day climb up Jebel Akhdar, Stage 2 of the three-day adventure saw more than 200 riders set out from Nizwa on a 145km route with a further demanding ascent, this time the 23km Hoota climb to the 2000m high summit of Jebel Haat.
The cycling peloton – which includes riders from 26 countries and high-profile names such as 2009 F1 World Champion racing driver Jenson Button – were treated to panoramic views and a ride through lush plantations in Tanuf on the road to Hoota. With lighter winds than the first day, and warmer riding conditions, the field hit high speeds and a faster than expected pace on the approach to Jebel Haat, and also on the return section to Nizwa following the climb.
At the finish line the overnight leader, Swiss rider Guillaume Bourgeois, maintained his narrow overall advantage despite a determined challenge from Stage 2 winner Nol Van Ioon from the Netherlands, who reached the top of Jebel Haat almost a minute ahead of the chasing pack.
“I’m in a different world right now,” said Van Ioon. “After about 30km I thought ‘let’s go and see what happens’. I gave everything on the mountain, and then had to give everything again as I really wanted to win the stage.
“I am very happy to win, it was all worth it. I made it and it just needs to sink in.”
Bourgeois, meanwhile, will take a 1 minute 45 second overall lead into Sunday’s time trial – the finale of Haute Route Oman – though second placed Australian cyclist Adrian White will be going all out to overcome that margin. France’s Thomas Berger remains in third place.
Also determined to hold on to the yellow-flashed leader’s jersey – supplied by Léger, the event’s official clothing supplier – was British rider Helen Sharp, who extended her already substantial lead in the women’s classification to over 54 minutes ahead of fellow UK cyclist Louise Gelling.
Spain’s Isora Sosa Caballero climbed the women’s leaderboard from 15th to third overall to hold a narrow 34 second advantage over Ireland’s Elizabeth Dunne.
Haute Route Oman concludes on Sunday with individual time trial finishing in Misfat Al Abriyinn.
All the results from Stages 1 and 2, as well as cumulative standings, can be found here.