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The unseen race: Why the Tour of Oman needs to be broadcast on live TV

Joe Robinson
14 Feb 2018

No television and no fans, can the Tour of Oman continue?

Nathan Haas pipped current Paris-Roubaix and Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet to stage victory on a tough uphill sprint. Bryan Coquard took the scalp of Mark Cavendish in a fast and furious flat finale. 

On Saturday, the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Miguel Angel Lopez will race up the 5.7km, 10.5% Green Mountain in the stage that will most likely decide the eventual winner of the race.

However, if you didn't know any of this there would be no blaming you. For the second year in succession the Tour of Oman has taken place un-televised with its usual lack of roadside fans. 

Despite offering the most varied terrain and interesting racing of the Gulf races, Oman isn't aired live and us cycling fans are left feeding off of patchy highlight videos and various race reports to know what's been happening. 

Yet, earlier this week ASO extended its agreement to organise the race for a further six years with the goal of the race inspiring not only the people of Oman but international cyclists to view this gulf nation as a haven for riding.

How can a race and sport be expected to grow if nobody can see it?

Compare Oman to the Colombia Oro y Paz last week, Colombia's first major stage race. Regardless of the terrain the peloton travelled or road they raced, fans lined the road trying to peak a glimpse of their hero riders.

From stage start to finish people had left their homes and work to get a glance even if it was just for a few seconds. 

If you weren't lucky to be en route then there was always the free-to-stream, non-geo restricted coverage of Senal Colombia Deportes.

I don't speak Spanish and I couldn't understand what was being said but I could watch what was happening and the commentary box spoke in such a tone I could tell this was an exciting race.

Oman is an exciting race. Of the season openers in the Middle East it is the only race that can boast a truly varied terrain.

The ever-present Green Mountain is one of the first glimpses we see of climbing talent in the season and there is always the threat of crosswinds.

Just look back at previous winners and names such as Chris Froome, Nibali and Robert Gesink to see this a proper race.

Oman cannot boast the deep field of spectators seen in Colombia or in Yorkshire or in Roubaix and probably never will. It is raced in the desert after all. So to counteract this, it needs to have cycling fans watching the race for it to become noticed, for it to grow.

To do that, it is vital that the race and its organisers ASO have it televised for fans to see. It is the only way to become noticed. 

It won't be long until teams find it a race surplus to requirements due to lack of sponsor coverage and the biggest and best names from cycling start to overlook Oman for more appealing races elsewhere in which their name will be shown in a brighter light.

When that happens, don't be surprised when ASO pulls the plug, leaves the Oman and the work put into increasing cycling in the Middle East becomes a memory of the past.

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