Belgium’s Tim Merlier leads the way after the first stage of the Tour of Oman

Oman Saturday 11/February/2023 20:05 PM
By: Times News Service
Belgium’s Tim Merlier leads the way after the first stage of the Tour of Oman

Muscat: Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) is enjoying a great start of the year 2023: he became a father 11 days ago and dedicated his victory today to his young son as he outsprinted his rivals in Stage 1 of the Tour of Oman 2023.

The 30-year-old Belgian National champion from Kortrijk crossed the line ahead of David Dekker (Arkéa-Samsic) and Axel Zingle (Cofidis) to take his first win on the road since joining Soudal Quick-Step in the off-season, adding to his cyclo-cross win in January.

This should be the only opportunity for sprinters this week, but that is soon to change as tiredness kicks in and the focus shifts to hill climbs and summit finishes – including Stage 2 on Sunday in Quriyat.

Merlier said, “It was an easier stage today as everyone was fresh. The team did a great job, and I am happy. Today was an early opportunity for the sprinters to gain points, but tomorrow is better suited to the climbers. I hope to be able to help the team tomorrow.”

The 147.4km first stage began at Al Rustaq Fort and took the field through Al Awabi and Nakhal, before climbing towards Fanja before the turn for home. There will be daily Challenges throughout the Tour of Oman 2023 with prizes for Individual Time, Points, Best Young Rider and Most Active Rider.

Merlier claimed best Invidual Time and Points following his win while 25-year-old David Dekker from The Netherlands earned the ‘Best Young Rider’ award for Stage 1. Fellow Dutchman Jeroen Meijers (Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team) won the ‘Most Active Rider’ award.

Dekker said, “It was important for me to get a good result, and I think the team will be happy after today. Everybody was able to ride hard today so that made it difficult for us all during the race, especially the last kilometre where it is flat. The job for me in the coming days is to help the climbers in the team and to get a good result.”

Stage 2 on Sunday is a tough test of endurance for the riders, starting from Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex and heading through Al Amerat and Al Fleij in the foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains before the 174km stretch ends in Quriyat.