Chris Froome (Team Sky) has won the queen stage of the Tour of Oman and now leads the race overall.
The defending champion accelerated clear of his rivals to take victory at the summit of Green Mountain, finishing ahead of BMC Racing’s Tejay Van Gaarderen, who was second, and former team-mate, Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), who was third.
Froome, racing for the first time this season, gave a further demonstration of the power that carried him to victory at last year’s Tour de France, and told Team Sky’s website that he was delighted by the win.
“It feels absolutely fantastic getting that win today, especially with it being my first race of the season,” he said. “Coming into the race I wasn’t sure exactly where my form was but this has proved I’m where I need to be right now.”
The Kenyan-born Brit, who began a phenomenal 2013 campaign with a first-ever overall victory in a stage race at last year’s Tour of Oman, praised his team-mates for their part in today’s victory.
Green Mountain, the signature climb of the Tour of Oman, again played its role in delivering what looks likely to be the decisive moment in the race.
A four-man breakaway, which almost inevitably contained Topsport-Vlaanderen’s Preban Van Hecke, was swept up at the foot of the 10km climb to the finish, with Team Sky’s men well to the fore.
Britain’s Ben Swift, recently returned from injury and better known for his sprinting prowess, had delivered a convincing turn on the front with Danny Pate, and when the road pointed skywards, David Lopez and new signing, Mikel Nieve, a veteran campaigner and climbing specialist who had previously plied his trade with the now-defunct Euskaltel-Euskadi squad, took over.
“That set Sergio [Henao] up for a pre-planned attack with about 2km to go when the climb ramped up again, and that meant I could sit on the wheels and conserve my energy,” Froome continued.
“Robert Gesink and Tejay [van Garderen] were forced to go after him, and the second they’d made the catch, I made my move with about 1.5km to go.
“I could see Rigo chasing me for a while, and obviously Tejay again, and they both deserve respect for that, but I was pleased with the amount of time I was able to put into them.”
With only a 146.5km run from As Sifah to the Matrah Corniche between Froome and the perfect start to the season, his Sky team-mates are likely to retain a close watch over the peloton on tomorrow’s closing stage.
Tour of Oman 2014: stage five – result
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 3.49.53
2) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +22″
3) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +33″
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +38″
5) Robert Gesink (NED) – Belkin +47″
6) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +51″
7) Arnold Jeannesson (FRA) – FDJ.fr + 56″
8) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +59″
9) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +1.09
10) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.15
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 18.36.45
2) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +26″
3) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +31″
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +48″
5) Robert Gesink (NED) – Belkin +57″
6) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.01″
7) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +1.19
8) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.25
9) Johann Schopp (SUI) – IAM Cycling +1.32
10) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha +1.34