Another early season stage race for those riders wanting to grab some much needed winter sun, and the opportunity to explore a destination that may not automatically spring to mind when you're thinking about MTB racing.
The Oman's Trans Hajar is in its 5th year and now carries UCI points. It kicked off yesterday (30th Jan) with an Individual Time Trial in the mountainous surroundings of Jebel Shams, Arabia’s highest peak (3,028 metres). Stage 1 was two laps of a rocky 21km loop around the ‘Sint Bowl’, a 1,000m high plateau between Jebel Kwar and Jebel Shams, before descending a fast singletrack section and climbing back to the camp to finish. Dry conditions made for some dusty racing in temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius.
Leading the pack by 1 minute 40 seconds in the Male Open Category is South African James Reid with Jason Bryan of Ireland only 2 minutes behind. Leading Brit was Matt Page, doing well in 10th. In the Open Female Category, Hungary’s Eszter Dosa has a 2 minute lead over her nearest rival, last year’s winner Hannele Steyn (RSA) with Catherine Williamson of the UK sitting in 3rd.
South African Team RECM rider, James Reid, extended his lead over his nearest rival to 1 minute 48 seconds on day 2 Trans Hajar. The stage ended with a sprint finish between Reid and his fellow countryman Max Knox after 127km of racing. With only one second separating them at the line, Knox, racing for the Dubai based team Revolution Cycles, now moves up to 2nd place in the Open Male classification. Matt Page sits in 12th with Leslie Brown in 13th and Marc Bearman 4 places behind them.
In the Open Female Category, Catherine Williamson is flying the flag for the UK, winning the day’s racing ahead of yesterday’s winner Eszter Dosa (HUN). Williamson has now moved into the overall lead, just four seconds ahead of Dosa.
Today’s route was the longest and toughest of this multi-day stage race totalling a staggering 127km, and as temperatures reached 30 degrees Celsius competitors pushed themselves to the limit in the hot and dusty conditions. With a remote start, the stage began at the top of a 2,010m peak taking riders down the highest mountain pass in Oman. Given the extreme nature of the descent the stage began with a neutral start to ensure the competitors’ safety before winding its way through the deep canyons and meandering mountain trails of this unique and exquisite country.
After 8 retirements on day 2, the 59 international pro and amateur riders will tackle the hardest climb of the Trans Hajar during tomorrow’s racing with an ascent of 750m. Once up top it’s straight down on a singletrack section of hard rock surrounded by beautiful and contrasting Omani scenery.