The early-season, we are told, is a building process, and on the evidence of the Tour of Oman, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) appears to have laid robust foundations for his 2016 campaign. The Italian champion finished safely in the main peloton to secure overall victory on Sunday’s final stage, which was won by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).
Kristoff clocked up his second win of the race and his fifth in total this season in the final bunch sprint, where his prodigious finishing effort was simply too much for the Giant-Alpecin duo of Zico Waeytens and Soren Kragh Anderson. It marked the second year running that the Norwegian has started his season with a cluster of confidence-boosting wins in the Middle East and he returns to Europe seemingly as the man to beat on the cobbles – and at Milan-San Remo – this spring.
“Last year I was really good in this part of the season and I’ve started really well now so I think I’m on the right way,” Kristoff said afterwards.
Nibali, by contrast, endured difficult openings to both his 2014 and 2015 seasons, failing to register a win until the Italian championship in June on each occasion, but this time around, he has hit the ground running.
After showing sure signs of form as last month’s Tour de San Luis progressed, Nibali exuded confidence throughout the week in Oman, and there was little surprise when he seized possession of the red jersey after winning atop Green Mountain on Friday. There was a calm assurance, too, about the way Nibali repelled Romain Bardet and AG2R-La Mondiale’s offensive on the rugged penultimate stage and he enjoyed a quiet afternoon on Matrah Corniche on Sunday.
The Sicilian finished the race 15 seconds clear of Bardet and 24 ahead of his Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang.
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