Tour of Oman 2014: stage five – five observations

Froome, Team Sky, Preben Van Hecke, fixture congestion...and July

Early signs?

A start list that includes the names Froome, Nibali, and Rodriguez is one that will automatically fill the mind with thoughts of July, and the temptation to read into events in Oman the outcome of engagement among cycling’s biggest names at the Tour de France is hard to resist. It must be resisted, however. Events in February rarely have a bearing on those of July, with the obvious exception of the form of Team Sky’s preferred candidate (witness the domination of Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2013).

Vincenzo Nibali couldn’t compete with Chris Froome on the climb to the summit of Green Mountain, but July and the Tour de France are a long way off. pic: ASO/Bruno Bade

Froome vs. Nibali at the Tour will offer no less an exciting match up in July, despite Froome’s decimation of the Italian and the remainder of the field on Green Mountain. Likewise, Rodriguez can be expected to mount a stronger challenge in France than he managed on the signature climb of Oman, where he finished nearly 40 seconds behind Froome. Others, however,  face a more substantial game-raising exercise if they are to rise above the level of fringe contenders. The Schleck brothers, for example – Frank and Andy – finished 2.19 and 2.49 off the pace. Yesterday’s men? They must improve to escape a tag that is harsh but accurate at time of writing.

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