Daniele Bennati's victory today in stage two of the Tour of Oman raises an important question: what the hell is the Tour of Oman? Here are some important things to remember:
- Oman is the country occupying the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. It's about the size of California, with the population of Orange County. If you're wondering why they're hosting a bike race, the key statistic is 79 -- the average temperature (F) for February. Sadly, February is also Oman's wettest month, averaging an inch of rain... which we in Seattle refer to as "today's forecast".
- The parcours supposedly mixes things up from the relentlessly flat Tour of Qatar, thanks to elevations in the hilly desert terrain approaching 1000 meters. Not that you shouldn't expect sprint finishes every day regardless: we've had two so far, and the "hilly" stages include tomorrow's steep climb up the Qurayvat, followed by a fast descent, and Wednesday's climby bits 50km from the line.
- Edvald Boasson Hagen isn't likely to surrender the lead unless Team Sky let a break succeed. Which may well be in their plans -- they aren't returning my emails, despite clear directions in the subject line to tell me their secret race strategies. It's February, where anything can happen except live video or me getting excited. But the short climbs shouldn't ace out anyone but the guys who can't get up short, steep climbs, which is almost nobody at this level. And the concluding stage is an 18km time trial, yet another race discipline well within EBH's repertoire.
- Should I watch? you're asking yourself. Why yes! Versus is airing a recap of the race in two weeks. Have fun with that!