Muscat – Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins endured a frustrating start to his Tour of Oman challenge on Monday as he came in last over a minute behind stage winner Marcel Kittel.

The colourful British rider was delayed by a pile-up in the last few kilometres of the 162km stage and came in 1min 30sec adrift of the leaders.

Kittel who rides for Argos Shimano held off the challenge of Italian David Apollonio (AG2R) and French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), following the ride from Al Musannah to Sultan Qaboos University, east of Muscat.

Former Tour De France champions' Alberto Contador of Spain and Australian Cadel Evans as well as Belgian world champion Philippe Gilbert came home in the peloton, gaining a useful early advantage over Olympic time-trial champion Wiggins.

Wiggins openly admitted that he came into the race short of form, but he now faces an even tougher challenge to catch Contador and Evans in the six-stage race that culminates on Saturday at Matra Corniche.

The stage had been marked by a long escape which was led by Dutch rider Bobbie Traksel who was in the company of Kohei Uchima a member of the Japanese team and only national formation in the race.

The two men make their break after just 1km before Traksel was reeled in by the peloton with 32km to go and Uchima survived another 16km before he too was swept up by the charging pack.

Kittel, 24, meanwhile became the first rider to win three stages on the race after taking two last year, adding to arguably his finest moment when he won the seventh stage on the 2011 Tour of Spain.

He will don the overall leader's red jersey for the second stage on Tuesday, which is a 146km ride from Fanja in Bidbid to Al Bustan. – Sapa-AFP