Belgian Champion Tim Merlier will make his debut for the Wolfpack on the road.
Next week, we will be back in the Middle East, a region where our team has scored a staggering 65 wins since 2003, including a memorable victory at the World Team Time Trial Championships held in Qatar, back in 2016. Oman and the United Arab Emirates is where Soudal Quick-Step will be in action this month, with the former hosting also a brand-new event, in addition to its national tour, the one-day Muscat Classic.
Scheduled on the eve of the Tour of Oman, the race will see the riders tackle the hilly roads to Al Bustan, where the puncheurs are expected to fight for victory. One day later, the sprinters will get their only real opportunity of the week, before making way for the climbers. Jabal Haat (4.6km, 8%) and Jabal Al Akhdar (5.7km, 10.5%) – the latter featuring on the last stage for the first time in the race’s 14-year history – will be the ideal terrain for the GC contenders to make the difference.
Oman will mark the first outing of Tim Merlier for the Wolfpack in the Belgian Champion jersey which he conquered for the second time in his career last summer. The 30-year-old – victorious in the Zonnebeke cyclo-cross race last month – will be joined by defending champion Jan Hirt, Fausto Masnada – who finished runner-up at the previous edition – Josef Cerny, James Knox, Bert Van Lerberghe and Mauri Vansevenant.
“We will try to go for a victory, first with Tim in the sprint, but he won’t be our only card next week. Jan won here in 2022 and knows the course, the same can be said about Fausto, who took a stage last season in Oman, and also Mauri can be an option on the harder stages. The confidence is high in the team and hopefully we will come out of the race with a victory”, said Soudal Quick-Step sports director Wilfried Peeters.
Photo credit: ©Wout Beel