The Middle East’s first ever Haute Route event finished with a flourish in Misfat Al Abriyinn on Sunday as a large field of international cyclists completed their three-day adventure in Oman. After two days and more than 200 kilometres of challenging riding – which included long and daunting road climbs up both Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Haat – the amateur riders taking part in the Haute Route Oman took on a deceptively short 9.4km time trial finale.
Setting out from Al Hamra in still conditions, a stark contrast to the testing winds the field faced on the mountain courses, riders made a fast start on flat rolling roads from the ancient town. Then came the sting in the tail, a relentless series of steep switchbacks and climbs as the course ascended towards the finish in Misfat. The day was won by Australia’s Adrian White, who clawed back time on the overall leader Guillaume Bourgeois, but not enough to deny the Swiss rider the Haute Route Oman title.
Following almost six hours of determined riding, Bourgeois finished only 1 minute and 27 seconds ahead of White, with Thomas Berger from France completing the podium places. “I am very happy,” said Bourgeois. “It is always difficult after the first day when you control the race to continue to manage it for the two following days.
“So Saturday went well and I was able to control those following me, and I knew today was quite a short race time so it would be difficult to close a big gap, so I was pretty confident and very happy with the result.”
The women’s race was a clearer cut affair, with British cyclist Helen Sharp winning all three stages to finish more than 20 minutes clear of China’s Stella Chen He, with the Netherlands’ Lispeth Gruppen taking third. “It’s been epic, absolutely amazing,” said Sharp. “Tough, but it always is with a Haute Route, that’s what you expect, it is what it is supposed to be. Great people, great scenery, a great country and sunshine, just awesome.”
Speaking immediately after the demanding final section she added: “It’s day three, it’s finished and the holiday begins from now.”
Local rider Hatim Al Booshri was the leading Omani competitor in 16th place, just two ahead of Shibab Al Qamshouai. Meanwhile 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button, a keen cyclist and co-founder of the Léger cycle clothing brand who were official event partners, came home to take 30th place after a memorable three days.
The 265 riders returned to the Haute Route Oman base in Nizwa for the closing ceremony, which is under the patronage His Excellency Shiekh Rashid Said Al Kalbani, Wali of Nizwa.