Muscat: Talks to bring the famed Tour of Oman back to the Sultanate in 2017 will take place as its cyclists compete in this year’s event, making 2016 possibly the last time the spectacle will be held if negotiations fail.
“It’s the last tour...for time being it is,” Habib Al Zawawi, Supervisor of Sports Events and Tour of Oman at Muscat Municipality, told Times of Oman. However, Al Zawawi, who is also the member of organising committee of the Tour of Oman, said the municipality will “negotiate” to “renew” the contract during the event.
“There will be negotiations. So it depends. Either to renew it or if that (2016 edition) will be the last one. The original agreement was for five years. The first edition of 2010 was a test. It wasn’t (an) official event. 2016 will be the last one. But it depends; there will be negotiations during the tour. By the end of tour we will come to know. There will be official announcement about it,” Al Zawawi further said.
Organisers say they are spending OMR2 million on next month’s event which gets under way on February 16, with Bank Muscat and Omantel among the key sponsors.
The 2016 Tour of Oman running for the seventh consecutive year is organised by the Municipality of Muscat in association with the Oman Cycling Federation with help from Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) under the regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI).
President of Oman Cycling Federation Saif Suba Al Rashid, however, said that he had no knowledge that the upcoming cycling event will be the last one.
“We have nothing to do with it. This is with Muscat Municipality. To be honest I haven’t heard anything about it,” he said.
Tour of Oman is considered an important preparatory race for the events like Olympics (in Rio de Janeiro) and the Road World Championships organised by the Union Cycliste Internationale (in Qatar) later this year.
Rafael Valls of UCI ProTeam Lampre–Merida and Vincenzo Nibali of UCI ProTeam Astana are among the big names participating in the seven-day event slated for February 16-22.
Valls was the winner of 2015 event while Christopher Froome of UCI ProTeam Team Sky clinched back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
The Muscat Municipality official said Team Sky is not participating in the cycling event.
“We missed around ten teams because of busy schedules. This year is lined up with events like Tour of Dubai, Tour of Qatar, Tour of Oman and then Tour of France followed by the Olympics and then world championship. So some teams decided to avoid Oman for the big events ahead,” Al Zwawi said.
Officials of Team Sky - a British professional cycling team that competes in the UCI World Tour - say the team is focusing on key European world tour races and will not participate in Oman.
“We decided not to race the Tour of Oman this year. We made the decision based on wanting to try a different approach to the first key European World Tour races,” a Team Sky official confirmed to Times of Oman.
Eighteen cycling teams have confirmed participation including Australia’s Drapac Professional Cycling, Belgium’s Etixx-Quick Step, Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise and Wanty Groupe Gobert, and Denmark’s Cult Energy-Stolting Group.
Two teams from France partaking in the event include Ag2r La Mondiale and Fortuneo Vital Concept.
Competing from Germany are Team Giant Alpecin and Bora – Argon 18. Italy’s Lampre-Merida, Kazakhstan’s Astana Pro Team, Netherlands’ Team Lotto Nl-Jumbo and Roompot-Oranje Peloton are also joining the race.
From the United States, BMC Racing Team and United Healthcare Pro Cycling will participate.
Polish CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Russian Katusha and South African Team Dimension Data are other contenders.
Stage (1) - Tuesday 16 / 2 / 2016
Starts at 11:00 from Oman Exhibition center - Finish at 14:38 at Bandar Al Roudha (141 Km)
Stage (2) Wednesday 17 / 2 / 2016. Starts at 11:35 from Omantel- Main Office at Mawaleh - Finish at 15:31 at qurayyat (161.5 Km).
Stage (3) Thursday 18 / 2 / 2016
Starts at 11:10 from Al Sawadi Beach - Finish at 15:26 at Naseem Park (178 Km ).
Stage (4) Friday 19 / 2 / 2016
Starts at 10:50 from Knowledge Oasis - Finish at 15:32 at Jabal Akhdar (178 Km)
Stage (5) Saturday 20 / 2 / 2016
Starts at 12:30 from Sifah - Finish at 15:34 at Ministry of Tourism - Al Khuwair (178 Km)
Stage (6) Sunday 21 / 2 / 2016
Starts at 12:15 from the wave Muscat – Finish at 15:31 at Mattrah Corniche (128 Km)