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BAYT AL NAMAN, Oman (VN) — Carter Jones began his first season in the top ranks Tuesday at the Tour of Oman, where he will help Giant-Alpecin teammate Warren Barguil and race alongside Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
“I’m nervous,” Jones told VeloNews while changing next to the Bayt Al Naman’s castle.
“I haven’t raced since September, at the Bucks County Classic in the U.S., and now it hits me that every race I do this year is going to be at the same level as the biggest races I did last year, if not higher. This is the biggest race of my life so far, and it’s only February.”
Jones won the Tour of the Gila and placed eighth in the Amgen Tour of California to earn a spot on the German WorldTeam. Besides stars Barguil, Marcel Kittel, and John Degenkolb, he joined Americans Caleb Fairly, Chad Haga, and Lawson Craddock.
Jones previously raced for Bissell (2012-2013) and Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies (2014), both continental teams that race two levels below Giant.
“I’ve done the Tour of California the last three or four years, but it’s different over here,” Jones said. “It’s a deeper field than California or Colorado, where there’s a few top teams. Here, there’s everyone.”
The 25-year-old from Colorado will use the same climbing strength that won him Gila to support Barguil. The Frenchman won two Vuelta a España stages in 2013, and he placed eighth overall in last year’s race.
“I’m excited. The team’s been so supportive of me,” Jones said. “I’m here to be integrated in the team and learn how they do things, then help Warren out in the mountains. That’s my primary job.”
The Tour of Oman’s queen stage on Friday finishes on Green Mountain at 1,235 meters above sea level.
“That’s the important day where I need to be there with Warren. On the other days, I’ll help out in the sprints as much as I can,” explained Jones.
“The team wants to integrate me and for me to learn the system, that’s what it’s about. I’m here to support warren and see how things go in the sprints. I’m happy with that and not having any outside stress.”
Jones arrived two days ago to the sultanate’s capital city of Muscat. He and his team took a bus to the race hotel, which sits on the beach with views of the Oman Sea. The countryside, camels, and road signs made an impression.
“Europe doesn’t feel so foreign because I’ve been going there for a while. I’ve moved in with Chad Haga in Girona [Spain],” Jones added. “Here, though … Not being able to read signs, not even the characters … That’s definitely a foreign feeling. I saw a camel for the first time. And the food is great, it’s a nice change of pace.”
The race pace should also be different than anything Jones has experienced before. The Tour of Oman, owned partly by cycling great Eddy Merckx, spans six days and covers 989 kilometers. This year, Merckx invited riders like Nibali, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha).