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.
The Haute Route Oman is based in Nizwa and starts on March 1 passing through the ancient village of Birkat al Mouz. It finishes in Al Hamra’s Misfat al Abriyeen on March 3. Overwhelming interest in Haute Route Oman saw a flood of registrations from the 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 Jebel Akhdar, 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 19 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 ten 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,” said David Graham, CEO of event host organiser Oman Sail. 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 Jebel Akhdar – which is just part of the 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 2,000m 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 eight per cent.