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SULTAN QABOOS UNIVERSITY, Oman (VN) — Marcel Kittel won the opening leg of the Tour of Oman on Monday at Sultan Qaboos University. It marked Argos-Shimano’s first win in 2013 and a “mellow debut” for American Joe Dombrowski (Sky).
“The first victory of the season is very important for me and also for the team,” Kittel said. “It’s a small jump to get the first race, and it gives everyone confidence: me, my teammates and the staff.”
Davide Appollonio (Ag2r La Mondiale) and French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) finished second and third behind Kittel, respectively. The German now leads the overall in the six-day race.
Kittel was largely responsible for the team receiving its ProTeam license for 2013, racking up 13 wins in 2012, including the GP Scheldeprijs and two Oman stages, but the season has started slowly for the Dutch squad.
He led the team in its first WorldTour race of the year, the Santos Tour Down Under, last month, but it did not go as planned. Rival German sprinter André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) took control and Kittel’s team failed to organize.
The Argos women’s team won the Tour of Qatar in late January, but the men’s team led by John Degenkolb could only manage a sixth-place result in one stage. Last year, Degenkolb won five stages of the Vuelta a España and placed in the top five of several classics and the world championship road race.
Degenkolb, however, led into the final for Kittel on Monday. Tom Veelers was the last leadout man.
“We talked about the problems when I arrived in Oman and we learned from them,” Kittel said. “It’s been a long time, since the Eneco Tour, that I last raced in a sprint [with Degenkolb]. It’s good working for each other. We will also help him here on the stages that suit him.”
Argos and Orica-GreenEdge led for much of the day after a two-man escape went free immediately into the 162km stage west of Muscat. The gap grew to nine minutes, but the bunch brought back the duo with 16 kilometers to race.
Joe Dombrowski rode in the group next to Tour de France winner Brad Wiggins. He made his debut as a professional on Monday, coming off an amateur career that saw him win the Baby Giro d’Italia in 2012.
“I was a little jittery at the start. It was a cool day, though, to race in the Sky kit,” Dombrowski told VeloNews. “It was a mellow start and pretty mellow all day. There were a couple of turns where people were getting nervous about the wind, but there was never enough wind to split any breaks. It turned out to be a few guys up the road that the peloton just let sit there and cook. We just kind of cruised all day.”
Wiggins was forced to ease up due to a crash that occurred with two kilometers remaining, but explained he passed without problems. He finished over a minute down on winner Kittel.