The Tour of Oman got off to a near perfect start for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka as Serge Pauwels come home in 2nd place, a few seconds behind Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quickstep). Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was 3rd with our Edvald Boasson Hagen in 4th.
After an early escape of 5 riders was neutralised with 20km to go, there was all to play for as 2 short steep climbs had to be dealt with in the finale of the stage. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were in a strong position with numbers at the head of the peloton.
The pace was on, going up the first drag which saw a number of big name riders distanced. Our African Team took advantage of the situation by helping to drive the pace to the final climb which began with 5km to go. Pauwels & Boasson Hagen were accompanied by teammates Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Merhawi Kudus and Nathan Haas on the final kicker as a flurry of attacks shattered the peloton.
Over the top it was all strung out but on the descent it regrouped somewhat with Pauwels, Boasson Hagen and Janse van Rensburg making the front split of 16 riders. Kudus and Haas were in a small 2nd chase group. It was with 2km to go that Jungels threw caution to wind with a solo attack. Pauwels tried to put in a big turn on the front to bring the lone leader back but he ended up getting a gap on the group. The Belgian put his head down but couldn't quite get onto the wheel of the Etixx rider before the line arrived. Jungels took a solo win, 6 seconds ahead of Pauwels, Bardet brought the chase group home in 3rd just 2 seconds later, after also putting in a late solo surge.
Pauwels now sits 2nd on both the general classification and in the points competition after stage 1. With Boasson Hagen in 4th place today and Janse van Rensburg also finishing with the select front group in 14th, Dimension Data for Qhubeka go into the rest of the week's racing in a strong position.
Serge Pauwels - Rider
There was a big selection on the last climb and I wasn't actually in a great position at the bottom, so I was always just behind the leaders. I got back to the front group with Jacques on the descent at around 3km to go. The group split again going through a corner and when Jacques and I got back to the front there was only 1.5km to go. I wanted to do one good pull after the last roundabout for Edvald but nobody followed my wheel and so I kept chasing Jungels myself. Unfortunately, I could not catch his wheel in the end.