As the European road racing season starts to get into full swing with the likes of Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Nice and the Spring Classics looming on the horizon, this week's Tour of Oman provided a taster of what promises to be a cracking season on the road. With Oman's mountainous terrain providing a scenic contrast to the flat desert landscape of the previous week's Tour of Qatar, the only thing missing was live TV coverage of the fourth edition of the race, the best yet.
Stages 4 and 5, which set up Chris Froome for his overall win, saw battles with Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador that would be worthy of a Tour de France stage, and while Mark Cavendish wasn't here, the ease with which Peter Sagan won his two stages suggest not only that we could be in for a battle royale for the green jersey at the Tour, but also that the Slovak is hitting some rich form ahead of the Spring campaign.
This gallery of pictures from the race organisers showcases some of the highlights of a great week of racing.
Stage 1 was made for the sprinters, but the spectacular scenery provided a constant reminder of the tougher terrain ahead later in the race.
Saxo-Tinkoff riders watch as traditional drummers tap out the rhythm.
Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano won two stages last year - he only took one this time round, but he was the first man to wear the race leader's red jersey.
Oman is rich in its architectural heritage and here the photographer uses a building's feature for an arty look at the peloton.
Kids - both in traditional Omani costume and not-so-traditional attire - turned out to cheer the riders on during every stage.
An attack on the descent gave Peter Sagan the first of two stage wins in the race. The stage profile was reminiscent of a mini-Milan-Sanremo - a rehearsal for next month, perhaps?
For the third day in a row, the break included Champion Systems' Bobby Traksel, at the rear here in the combativity jersey he would hold onto until the end of the race.
We all know that bananas are good for mid-ride refuelling, but there's no takers for this roadside fruit and veg seller's wares as the peloton speeds by.
Best get used to the sight of Peter Sagan celebrating victories this year. Here's another one from his repertoire.
A traditional dance troupe greets the riders as they pass by on Stage 4.
Cannondale looking after race leader Peter Sagan as the peloton passes a mosque.
The race always looked likely to be decided on Green Mountain, and only Cadel Evans is missing here from the eventual podium finishers. Joaquim Rodriguez would take the stage, but it was Chris Froome who went into the lead.
BMC Racing, who would come away with the best team prize, find some shade before the start of Stage 5.
Bradley Wiggins worked hard for Chris Froome all week. Will we see the same again in France this summer?
Dramatic scenery provided the backdrop to much of the race.
The landscape may be ancient, but the infrastructure is decidedly modern.
Alberto Contador attacked repeatedly on the penultimate stage, but Chris Froome won the sprint and took the bonus seconds to extend his overall lead.
Chris Froome's Team Sky colleagues keep him at the front of the peloton and out of trouble as the race heads towards its conclusion.
Team Sky still at the front as the race heads along the Matrah Corniche.
French champion Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ takes the final stage.
Chris Froome tops a rather crowded podium - everyone on it received a khanjar, the traditional and very ornate Omani dagger, which should make airport security fun on the way home.
All pictures copyright Lloyd Images/Muscat Municipality other than Nacer Bouhanni win and main Chris Froome picture, copyright Bruno Bade/Muscat Municipality.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.