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by Shane Stokes
February 21, 2015
Sandstorms, extreme temperatures and high winds combined Saturday to cause difficult conditions for the riders at the Tour of Oman and, after protests from the teams, to the eventual cancellation of what was to be the penultimate stage.
The 151 kilometre leg was due to travel from Al Sawadi Beach to the Ministry of Housing, but was affected at the start by a big sandstorm. That prompted the organisers to shorten the stage, with the modified parcours set to cover three laps of 29.5 kilometres plus the original finishing circuit.
However, after the riders were transported to the new starting point, it became quickly clear that there were still issues. Temperatures were very high and multiple riders punctured. High gusts of winds also added to the danger.
This prompted the peloton to stop racing and after some intense discussion with the organisers, the remainder of the stage was neutralised.
Team Sky directeur sportif explained how things played out.
“It was a particularly strange day,” the Frenchman said on the team website. “There were questions about safety so when that is the case then it is always better to be careful.
“Earlier they had to move the start because of sandstorms. That was a good decision for sure and it was strange to see everything in orange.”
He said that the issues continued after the restart.
“The parcours didn’t help matters today with the descending in the hot weather. We cannot be sure that all the teams are using the highest quality material with wheels and brakes. In the end they cancelled the stage.
“Some riders on other teams were getting punctures in the neutralised section before the stage started. I think what happened was that they went up the climb, and then they went down the descent so slowly behind the commissaire’s car that everyone had to brake.
“Some teams maybe weren’t using the best wheels and the temperature was too high which caused punctures.”
He said that his own riders were not affected, putting this down to the team’s suppliers and mechanics.
Lampre-Merida’s Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida) continues to lead overall, maintaining a nine second lead over Tejay van Garderen, and will be feeling optimistic about his chances.