Coquard clinches opening stage

MuscatBryan Coquard (Vital Concept) delivered a fine sprint to win stage 1 of the Tour of Oman in a bunch finish ahead of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) at Sultan Qaboos University.

“I’m very happy to win in Oman, because it’s my first big race of the season,” Coquard said. “It’s a new team, a new project and my first win - the second win of the team for the season. It’s very good, I’m very happy.”

Coquard has endured a trying 2018 since switching from Direct Energie to Jerome Pineau’s start-up squad during the off-season. 

Before the Frenchman had even turned a pedal in anger in his new colours, he learned that Vital Concept had been overlooked for wildcard invitations to the Tour de France and Paris-Nice, and he then fell maddeningly short of victory during his first two outings at the Sharjah Tour and Etoile de Bessèges.

On the eve of the Tour of Oman, however, Coquard was bullish about his prospects and the quality of his teammates, and such optimism seemed justified on the evidence of stage 1. 

Ably assisted by a lead-out train where Kris Boeckmans and Kevin Reza featured prominently, Coquard made no mistake in the finishing straight, out-pacing Cavendish, Nizzolo and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to claim his first win of the year and the second of Vital Concept’s short existence to date.

Timing was of the essence in the finishing straight, where the fast men had to battle into a headwind, and Coquard chose his moment well to emerge a clear winner ahead of Cavendish and Nizzolo.

“It was a very good lead-out. We have a lot of good riders for the lead-out and for the sprint in Oman. It’s very good. I don’t know, with maybe 3km, my team was on the front, and after it was a very good sprint,” Coquard said. 

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