Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Jebal al Akhdar: Green Mountain

If you have managed to catch any of the action so far this week in Oman or at least had a look at some pictures, then you will have noticed it's hills in contrast to the pan-flat desert of Qatar last week. The Tour of Oman is a good little early season race for the route, the variation, the scenery and this year particularly the riders: Wiggins, Froome, Contador, Evans, Nibali, Rodriguez are all there in what could be the first and only display of the leading Tour contenders before the race in July. On Thursday the race heads into the Al Hajar Mountain range as riders prepare to take on the summit finish on the 'Jabal Akhdar'. The 'Green Mountain'. Here is what they can expect...
In Blistering Heat The 'Green Mountains'
do not look so green...
The site of a unique and fragile biodiversity the 300km long, 3,075 metre high (the summit of 'Jabal Shams') mountain range is now a place of special scientific interest and with much of the lower lying land and rocky outcrops replicating the sandy, desolate desert colours of Qatar the rugged Al Hajar Mountains really do stand out. Though surrounded by desert, at altitude the mountains receive a generous (in these parts) 12 inches of rain and precipitation each year - enough to allow the growth of trees, shrubs - even agricultural workings and farms. They are an island of life in the sky, hence the name, the 'Green Mountains'.
The Jebal al Akhdar climb itself is a 5.8km Brute, though the road starts to rise before the official start point of the climb. Over the 5.8km the climb averages a steep 10,3% (Ok, there is steeper - but thinking of Tour climbs, the usual gradient is around an average of 7-8%) but there are areas within 3 kilometres of this which are 13.5% upwards, including the majority of the final 2km. This is a climb for the big guns - and expect them to stretch their legs here as they test their early season progress. Alberto Contador could be the one to watch here - even on today's stage and modest climbs he took his chance to try out some attacks, dropping the bunch on the final climb but being caught on the decent. Robert Gesink took the win here in 2011 and Vincenzo Nibali crossed the line on this stage first last year - he could look to repeat his feat again.
As I noted in Sundays post this climb could also provide us with some indication on the current Bradley Wiggins / Chris Froome set-up at Sky. Who will be the strongest? Early indications show that Froome is the designated team leader here but will Bradley Wiggins look to test his legs as it's he with the earlier season goals? It's a shame the coverage isn't live but whatever happens, the climb should make for one of the first real early season spectacles.
Nibali reached the summit first in 2011.

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