Muscat: The first ever Haute Route Oman is all systems go, with a sold out entry of 265 road cyclists set to take on the challenging course through the Sultanate, scheduled to start Friday, 1 March 2019. Enthusiastic amateur riders from 26 countries have signed up for the inaugural event – a new addition in 2019 to the high-profile international Haute Route Cycling Series and the first ever in the Middle East.
Overwhelming interest in Haute Route Oman saw a flood of registrations from the United Kingdom (UK), Singapore, China, many European countries, the US and Australia, as well as Oman itself, with female riders making up an unprecedented 16 per cent of the peloton, the highest proportion of women in Haute Route history. Nearly 60 per cent of the riders in the peloton will be taking on their first ever Haute Route event.
The three-day event will take riders on a 238km route centred on Oman’s dramatic and scenic Al Hajar Mountain range, with a demanding climb up the iconic Jabal Akhdhar, the Green Mountain, at its heart. Sharing the experience are some big names in sport, led by the 2009 FIA Formula 1 World Champion racing driver Jenson Button.
The 15-time Grand Prix winner will be joined by two others from the world of motor racing: Qatari local hero, MotoGP and World Superbike racer Mashel al Naimi, and Melville McKee, the British Singaporean former GP3 racing driver who tweeted that he is looking forward to ‘taking on the daunting Jebel Akhdar climb’.
Joining them is Tour Operator Will Levy from Two Wheel Tours Australia. Hosting nineteen people on a tour to witness or ride the event, he stated, “Oman is a new cycling destination and when I rode the test event, I knew my clients would love the country.”
Also racing in the Haute Route Oman are 10 local riders sponsored by Oman-based Petrogas E&P: Sultan Al Maamari, Moosa Al Rawahi, Aseel Al Riyami, Husni Al Riyami, Yousuf Al Shakaili, Khalil Al Mamari, Mohammed Al Shandudi, Musaab Al Rashdi, Hatim Al Booshri and Mshari Al Khalili.
“Haute Route Oman has received a positive response from all over the world and we’re delighted that the inaugural event has sold out. We look forward to welcoming the riders to experience the extraordinary natural beauty of the Al Hajar Mountain range and the warm hospitality for which Oman is famous,” said David Graham, CEO of event host organiser Oman Sail.
“Haute Route is renowned for selecting striking and iconic locations in which to offer a professional cycling experience for amateur riders, and the Sultanate delivers on all counts.”
Riders will face three days of testing rides, starting with Stage 1 and a climb rated as one of the most formidable in world cycling – the 14km route up Jabal Akhdar – which is just part of a 84km opening day with 3,000m of elevation gain. With a total distance of 145km, day 2 will feature a 22km climb up Jebel Haat, which summits at 2000m and offers some of the best panoramic views in Oman.
The Haute Route Oman will conclude with a deceptively short 9.4km final day, which disguises the challenge of an individual time trial with a sting in its tail – a 3.7km climb featuring relentless switchbacks with an average gradient of 8 per cent.
The popularity of cycling is growing rapidly in the Sultanate of Oman, where the country’s unique topography and tourism offerings position it as an ideal cycling destination. Cyclists can enjoy an unrivalled taste of authentic Arabia as they experience glorious riding conditions on courses that offer demanding terrain and breath-taking landscapes.
Haute Route Oman forms part of the national sports tourism strategy that aims to increase inbound tourism through sports and promote Oman as a tourism destination under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism and the Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit (ISFU). Haute Route Oman will benefit from local community support including that provided by 50 members of the Birkat Al Mouz-based team of Al Sahwa Youth Club who are offering a valuable contribution as volunteers for the event’s various logistical and organisational roles.
The event is also supported by the national airline Oman Air and water company Oasis Oman while Leger LA clothing, Revolution Cycles Dubai and Europcar are official suppliers, with the Environment Society of Oman the official charity. The Haute Route Oman is based in Nizwa and starts on 1 March passing through the ancient village of Birkat Al Mouz in the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah. It finishes in Misfat Al Abryeen in the Wilayat of Al Hamra on 3 March. –ONA