Froome Rises on Green Mountain; Wins Stage 5 of Tour of Oman
Defending Tour of Oman champion Froome set a new record when he conquered the Green Mountain in 18 minutes and 33 seconds. Froome accelerated from a group of general classification favorites with two kilometers to go and went on to take his first stage victory in the 2014 Tour of Oman ahead of Team BMC Racing's Tejay van Garderen and Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Rigoberto Uran (Columbia). By winning today's stage 5 Froome also captured the overall race lead and looks set to take the overall victory in this year's race.
"It feels absolutely fantastic getting that win today, especially with it being my first race of the season. 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," Froome told RoadCycling.com after being celebrated on the podium.
"I’m really, really happy to be back in the leader’s jersey. We came into this race with much less stress than previously, and no massive expectations, but to be able to do what we’ve done here today is fantastic and it all bodes well for the season to come."
Today's stage 5 was expected to be the decisive stage of this year's edition of the Tour of Oman and the 147.5 kilometers from Bidbid to Jabal Al Akhdar certainly didn't disappoint its spectators. The 141 remaining riders in the Tour of Oman peloton took off under sunny skies and in high temperatures just before noon and after just 3 kilometers, United HealthCare's John Murphy was the first to break away.
Canola and the two teammates Sprengers and Van Hecke of Top Sport Vlaanderen were quick to join forces with the American at kilometer 7. The four leaders rapidly grew their advantage and at the first intermediate sprint (kilometer 50), which was won by Van Hecke in front of Sprengers and Murphy, they could enjoy a 4 minute lead. The gap would actually reach a maximum 4 minutes and 15 seconds at kilometer 56, before Team Katusha and Cannondale Pro Cycling Team initiated the chase.
With 25 kilometers to go, the gap had been reduced to 2 minutes and 55 seconds. While the riders from Team Sky and Omega Pharma-QuickStep moved up to the front of the pack to prepare their leaders for the climb of the day, the breakaway hopefuls reached the second bonus sprint (kilometer 136), won by Van Hecke ahead of Canola and Murphy, with a 54 second lead. When Van Hecke, Sprengers and Murphy were eventually caught by the pack, Canola carried on alone, but his solo effort proved to be in vain, as the vicious pack caught him and took on the Green Mountain climb.
On the extremely tough first kilometers of the climb, points classification leader and German national champion André Greipel was among the first to be dropped. Moments later it was overall race leader Peter Sagan’s turn to stuggle. With 3 kilometers to go, climbers such as Vincenzo Nibali, who won on Green Mountain in 2012, Franck and Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing), were dropped.
A group of 14 riders gathered at the front for the final battle of the day. The group featured eventual stage winner Froome and three of his teammates, Belkin's Robert Gesink, Joaquin Rodriguez, Daniel Moreno, Team BMC Racing's Tejay van Garderen, Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Pozzovivo, Bardet (both ALM), Tinkoff-Saxo's Roman Kreuziger and Team FDJ's Jeannesson. After Froome's teammate Sergio Henao took off with just over 2 kilometers to go and was countered by Gesink, it was up to Froome to deliver the final punch. The Brit caught Henao and accelerated past him. With just a kilometer to go, Froome had a 12 second lead over Uran and Van Garderen, and was 33 seconds ahead of Pozzovivo and Rodriguez, with a Nibali-led group tailing at 1 minutes and 15 seconds behind.
The 2013 Tour of Oman winner eventually crossed the finish line with a 22 second advantage over Van Garderen and 33 seconds ahead of Uran. Froome clocked a record-breaking time of 18 minutes and 33 seconds on the climb, beating the previous record of 19 minutes and 14 seconds established by Rodriguez in last year's race. Thanks to his success, the Sky rider captures the overall leader’s red jersey and has what analysts call a comfortable 26 second lead over Van Garderen and 31 seconds over Uran with only one stage to go.
Commenting on his second place finish in today's stage van Garderen told Roadcycling.com "Everyone looked pretty tired, so I countered Gesink. My thoughts were, if I could get away clean up to Henao, that Froome would maybe be kind of flicked because he wouldn't be able to chase down his teammate. He would be stuck there tactically. But he was able to jump straight away onto my wheel."
"So it was me, Froome and Rigoberto Uran closing down on Henao. When Froome countered, that was the last we saw of him. I just made a tempo up to the top. I didn't even try to follow. I thought if I tried to follow, I might blow up."
The Green Jersey remains on the shoulders of Greipel while Frenchman Romain Bardet, who finished 8th in today's stage, now leads the best young rider classification. Once again present in the day’s long breakaway, Preben Van Hecke is in control of the most aggressive rider classification.