Chris Froome drops Tour de France champion and Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins in route to victory in Oman. Yes, you read it right: The Kenyan-born Briton left Wiggins eight minutes behind and never looked back. Get ready for controversy and recriminations!
Ha, just messing with you, folks. Wiggins was on work duty today along with Richie Porte and the team Sky squad set up Froome to perfection. He beat Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) to win the stage and pretty much wrap up his first stage race triumph.
In the process , he knocked off superstars Cadel Evans, Contador and Nibali and strengthened his position as a favorite to win Le Grand Shindig in July. Not a bad days work in the Sultanate of Oman.
Señor Contador tried to bushwhack Froome like he did Rodriguez in the Vuelta. He sent Hernandez into the break forcing Sky to work, then hammered the climbs as hard as you can in mid February. Fortunately, Froome had Richie Porte to set tempo and control EL Pistolero. Froome gave his domestique a Cav-strength hug of thanks at the finish.
“Over the last climb Contador attacked. Rodriguez and I were just behind and managed to close the gap over the top. Coming down to the bottom we knew we only had a small advantage and just rolled through together. The last two kilometers were quite tactical, with lots of attacking between us.”
Contador isn’t used to losing when he attacks and while it’s almost six months till Le Tour, he got a ugly taste of what Wiggins, Froome and Sky did to Nibali and Evans last season in Le Tour.
“It’s been a real battle today. Coming to a race and treating it as if it was a training ride is not something that I can do,” said Contador. “I couldn’t just sit in the bunch and do nothing. Attacking, is my style but you’ve got to have the legs to do it.”
“I attacked on the second climb to whittle down the front group, then I attacked on the third climb to get the time bonus and get ahead of Evans, then me and Jesus Hernandez accelerated to try and gain even more time. Unfortunately Froome was too close.”
Yup, Froome is close to winning the Tour of Oman tomorrow at the showcase in Muscat Corniche. “I’ve never been in this position now and it’s a great feeling going forward,” said Froome. “The team is doing really well. The training camps in Mallorca were a big success again for us this year and everyone has been really professional and serious during the winter, and I think it’s starting to show. Cycling is changing. Guys are going a lot faster earlier in the season but I don’t think any of us are at our best yet.”
Well, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) wasn’t quite at his best, finishing 37 seconds down. Froome now holds a 27 second lead on Contador with Evans third at 39 seconds. Special props to Sky’s 21 year old American Joe Dombrowski in 63rd who is about to finish his first Pro stage race. (Our profile of Joe is in this months’ issue of Cycle Sport magazine — a great kid with massive potential.)
While it wasn’t as demanding as yesterday’s battle up the Green Mountain, the stage to the Ministry of Housing (and bike racing) in Boshar was still a challenge. “The climb was extremely hard. Going over it three times, from different sides each time,” said Froome. “The last time up we were just in ones and twos, it was a lot more brutal than it looked on paper. I had in my mind that I’d always be with teammates and be able to control everything. To have it all blown to pieces on the second time up the climb, did make me feel a bit exposed.”