Chris Froome (Team Sky) sealed his first overall stage race victory after safely negotiating the final stage of the Tour of Oman.
The Kenyan-born Brit started the day 27 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador and both finished in the peloton after the 144km stage from Hawit Nagam Park to Matrah Corniche.
After two days in the mountains, the sprinters came to the fore on the final stage, and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) took the honours after edging out Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) in the bunch gallop.
The Tour of Oman saw many of the season’s Grand Tour contenders go head-to-head for the first time but Froome refused to get carried away despite landing an early psychological blow ahead of this year’s Tour de France.
“It’s been an incredibly successful week for us this week,” said Froome. “The team has rallied around me all the way and having guys of the calibre of Bradley Wiggins helping you to win a race makes it a hell of a lot easier to be up there when the going gets tough.
“The guys have done a sterling job this week and been around me when it’s counted. Luckily I’ve been able to come up with the goods and finish it off at the end of the stages.
“This is still very early days at the moment and early on in the season. This was a preparation event and a good test to see how the winter training has gone so far. I’m quite confident that I’m on track at the moment and right where I need to be with my preparations in view of being ready at 100 per cent for the Tour de France.”
Froome finished second behind Joaquim Rodriguez on the race’s Queen Stage to move into the overall lead and then extended his advantage with victory on stage five.
That just left the final stage to negotiate and Froome was marshalled through the finishing circuit by his Sky team-mates, who included super-domestique Bradley Wiggins.
Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford said: “It’s good to get the win, especially when you look at the quality of the field here. We’re happy that the team’s been able to get off to a strong start again this year and this result allows us to build momentum.
“It’s an important result too for Chris as he’s been able to get his first major stage race victory – that will boost his confidence. He didn’t put a foot wrong all week so it’s been a good start to the year from him.
“The team rode well to support him and it’s great to be able to integrate the new riders, which is something that developed throughout the week.
“It’s February and now is the time to build. It’s nice to have that platform but we need to consolidate that and build on it.”
Tour of Oman 2013 – stage six – result
1) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ – 3:24:20 hours
2) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – same time
3) Taylor Phinney (USA) – BMC Racing
4) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling
5) Borut Bozic (SLO) – Astana
6) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-GreenEDGE
7) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
8) Danny van Poppel (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
9) Blaz Jarc (SLO) – NetApp-Endura
10) Marco Coledan (ITA) – Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox
Final general classification
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 23:28:33 houra
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – SaxoBank-Tinkoff +27″
3) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +39″
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha +50″
5) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – Ag2r La Mondiale +1’13”
6) Johann Tschopp (SWI) – IAM Cycling – same time
7) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +1’19”
8) Kenny Elissonde (FRA) – FDJ +1’34”
9) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r La Mondiale +1’44”
10) Maxime Bouet (FRA) – Ag2r La Mondiale +1’57”