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Inaugural Haute Route Oman Hailed a Major Success

Haute Route Oman broke new ground when it won a place on the international cycling calendar, attracting more than 290 registered riders from 26 countries to the sold-out event

The inaugural Haute Route Oman has been celebrated as a great success after delivering a unique and challenging three-day experience. 

It presented the peloton with a trio of daunting stages on a 238km course through the heart of Oman’s dramatic and scenic Al Hajar mountain range. The iconic Jebel Akhdar – the Green Mountain – and a 3,000m-plus climb averaging 10.3% was at the heart of Stage 1, followed on day two by the only slightly less daunting ‘Hoota Climb’ to the 2,000m summit of Jebel Haat and its awe-inspiring panoramic views. Stage 3 on the final day offered a deceptively short 9.4km time trial finale, but came with a sting in its tail in the shape of a relentless series of steep switchbacks and short, sharp climbs to the finish.

Taking on the challenge for the first time was Haute Route Oman Ambassador Jenson Button, the 2009 F1 world champion racing driver, a keen cyclist who is also co-founder of the Léger cycle clothing brand who were official event partners.

With temperatures averaging around 20°C conditions were near idyllic, though strong winds after the Jebel Akhdar section on Stage 1 saw event organiser Oman Sail shorten the course to ensure rider safety was maintained.

The competitive field produced three different winners across the three stages, with Swiss rider Guillaume Bourgeois, Nol van Loon from the Netherlands, and Australia’s Adrian White taking the honours on respective days. A determined Bourgeois established enough of a lead with his first day victory to hold off determined challenges from White, who finished only 1 minute and 27 seconds adrift after almost six hours of racing, and a consistent Thomas Berger from France who took the final place on the overall podium.

A delighted Bourgeois said: “It was pretty hard. It is my first time in Oman and it is a good race to start the season and I am happy as always – it’s amazing with a beautiful landscape, pretty cool.”

he women’s race was a clearer cut affair, with British cyclist Helen Sharp winning all three stages to finish more than 20 minutes clear of China’s Stella Chen He, and the Netherlands’ Lispeth Gruppen taking third.

“It’s been epic, absolutely amazing,” said Sharp. “Tough, but it always is with a Haute Route, that’s what you expect, it is what it is supposed to be. Great people, great scenery, a great country and sunshine, just awesome.”

Sharp’s sentiments were echoed by fellow British rider Lisa Goodall, half of the victorious Team Bee mixed duo and among the 56% of the field taking part in their first ever Haute Route event. She said: “It’s been amazing, a complete surprise and it was just a fantastic ride, I loved it. It has been brilliant, really emotional. I wasn’t expecting it at all and it is just fantastic as I have never raced before. It’s a great country and people are really friendly and the scenery is amazing, the mountains are beautiful.”

Jenson Button also relished the challenge and was suitably inspired by Oman as a destination “It has been a really, really good experience, it’s been definitely tough but that’s what we do it for, we like to push ourselves, and to do it in a country with such beauty and hospitality has been terrific.

The hills are so steep here and you are working so hard, but once you get up there, you look around and it makes it all worthwhile. The scenery is so different to anywhere I have been. I have been to unusual places like Hawaii and Lanzarote, where it is very volcanic, and I have been to the desert before, but it is so different here, a mix of the two.

It’s like another world, like you are on another planet, so it’s been a really nice experience.”

Haute Route Oman now sits alongside the highly successful OMAN by UTMB® ultra-trail event and the long-running Al Mouj Muscat Marathon as a key part of Oman’s developing sports and adventure tourism calendar.