Gallery: Behind the scenes of a dramatic day of racing at the Tour of Oman
Watching from the deputy director's car allows for a unique viewing experience.
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The Tour of Oman wrapped up this week with Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar) taking away his first-ever professional win and his debut GC title.
Oman has become a staple of the early season with teams and riders heading to the Middle Eastern country for some guaranteed sunshine and an event that rarely results in crashes.
It is 13 years since Tour de France organizer ASO brought the race to the calendar. This year saw the introduction of the Muscat classic, a one-day race that has been designed to attract more teams to it with the offer of additional points to add bring home.
During the 12th edition — the race lost two years due to the death of the Sultan Qaboos bin Said and then COVID-19 — VeloNews got to see the event from a new perspective after getting the opportunity to sit in the deputy race director’s car during stage 4.
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Pierre-Yves Thouault, who is also ASO’s deputy director of cycling, presides over the Tour of Oman along with the director Franck Perque. Between the two, they ensure that each stage runs smoothly.
While the stage is ongoing, the duties of the director and his deputy are fairly straightforward. The director is the individual that decides exactly when racing can get going and maintains the flow of vehicles past the race. At an event like the Tour of Oman, where staffing is far lower than at European races, he also doubles up as the timekeeper.
The deputy takes over this role when the director is unavailable — such as when his car pulls over to the side of the road for a comfort break. However, most of the race is spent sending information over the radio about obstructions in the road, such as the many speedbumps. We also shooed away some goats that decided to cross the road shortly before the peloton passed through.
Sitting in the deputy director’s car offers a unique viewpoint of a race, especially in an event like the Tour of Oman where television coverage is only a recent thing.
While the bunch is together, we are just a few hundred meters ahead of it, and then the car sits behind the breakaway when it forms.
Stage 4 could hardly have been a better day to see the race from this vantage point as the battle for the breakaway lasted close to an hour. Through the back window and in the wing mirror, we can see the frenetic string of attacks and the way the bunch swarms across the road from left to right as new riders ping off the front.
In the end, a breakaway of four riders got clear and the race calmed down for a couple of hours. We got to see the escape duke it out for the points at the intermediate sprint from just behind the group.
Over the penultimate climb of the day, we were able to see the race develop as Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Qazaqstan) tried to put Jorgenson into trouble, and how the American fought his way back into the Kazakh’s wheel to ensure he didn’t take any time.
Coming into the finish, the tight hairpin at the end allowed us to park up just short of the finish line and watch as a small bunch caught a lone attacker. We then darted just past the finish and dived out of the car with seconds to spare as the group sprinted for the finish with Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) taking the win.