MUSCAT: Olympic hopeful James Reid won the 2015 TransHajar Mountain Bike Race on Tuesday by finishing 12 minutes 58 seconds ahead of his compatriot Max Knox who claimed the second place. Kevin Evans finished third to make it an all-South African podium in the Open Men’s Category.

British rider Catherine Williamson stormed to victory in the Open Women’s Category 33 minutes and 55 seconds ahead of Eszter Dosa (Hungary) and Hannele Steyn (South Africa), last year’s winner, in the third position.

“The race totally blew my mind. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my relatively short mountain biking career. It was something out of this world – the setting and environment we camped in and the daily stages we went on; every day there was something different. From bus transfers to lost cities to incredible 20km climbs and breath-taking views – it was something special,” said champion of the race, James Reid.

Though final day of racing saw the international field of pro and amateur riders take on a fast and predominantly flat stage, competitors still had to face a 250m vertical ascent climb as well as a 400m climb to the finish line.

Some confusion on the trail caused a shuffle in the standings and Jan Pyott (Switzerland) won the final stage of the race with Romania’s Tudor Oprea finishing second while Max Knox (South Africa) came third. Despite faltering in the final two stages, James Reid still took the overall win.

In stage four – the shortest stage of the five-day race at just 53km but with four major climbs including one with a gradient of 26 per cent, Reid and Renay Groustra led the pack going into the final climb but Groustra made a break from the line and Reid was unable to respond resulting in a one second stage victory to temporarily loosen James Reid’s grip on the race.

Oman’s Mousab al Rashidi finished at the 18th position, while Hatim al Boshri finished 24th and Mishari al Khalili finished 27th out of the 41 riders who completed the course.

In the women’s category, Catherine won four of the five stages, finishing eight seconds ahead of Eszter with a time of 3:52.33 in the final stage. Hannele finished third with a time of 4:09.21. Anna Christie ended the day at the fourth position with a time of 5:26.48, Michelle Guerin (New Zealand) two seconds behind in fifth, and Gill Sparrow (Great Britain) and Reinette Schulze finished 30 minutes later in sixth and seventh positions respectively.

Catherine said, “It was an amazing week with tough riding in tough conditions. We’ve had lots of climbing but there’s been lots of varied, some single track, open roads, technical descends and rocky climbs. We’ve had a bit of everything. I’ve had a great week in Oman, anyone out there who wants to get some sunshine and base miles should definitely come and do this race.”

Winners received their prizes from Dr Abdul Malik bin Abdullah al Hinai, advisor to the Ministry of Financial Affairs, Saif al Rushadi and Arthur Jordens, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Chief Commissaire.

The event was organised and managed by Oman Sail. Congratulating the winners, David Graham, Oman Sail CEO, said, “The past five days have seen close and saw competitive riding between cyclists from all over the world. As well as challenging biking, riders experienced authentic Arabia, beautiful landscapes, and a really warm welcome from the villages they rode through. It was our pleasure to host them and we look forward to welcoming them back to Oman.”

This year’s race over a 400km route was completely redesigned to provide a more challenging experience for competitors and to incorporate canyons, wadis, river-crossings and traditional Omani villages with short sprints, steep climbs and rugged single track.