Chris Froome got his 2014 campaign off to a winning start in Oman, defending his crown from last year. He won atop Green Mountain on stage five, opening up an unassailable advantage over nearest rivals Tejay van Garderen and Rigoberto Uran.
Froome starts 2014 ominously well
So early in the season it’s pretty much impossible to draw any serious conclusions from the racing. However, Sky’s Chris Froome fired a warning shot by defending his crown, and doing so in dominant fashion.
He managed to comfortably mark his contenders until making his move on the decisive stage five, and the tough finish atop Green Mountain. Making his move after an opening attack from his teammate Sergio Henao was reeled in, Froome opened up a 22-second advantage over the others. It was too big a margin to be closed, with stage six a simple sprint affair.
An important cog in Froome’s victory was Basque climber Mikel Nieve, who made his debut for the British squad after the sad demise of Euskaltel-Euskadi. The 29-year-old further bolsters Sky’s climbing ranks, and it’s hard to see anyone topping them in the big races.
The Gorilla dominates the sprint
Froome may have won the race, but it was German sprinter Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) who stole most of the headlines. The Gorilla was in imperious form as he sprinted to three wins and the points classification.
Granted, it wasn’t the strongest sprint field that Greipel will ever face, with a few of his serious rivals perhaps put off by the couple of hilly stages on the parcours. His nearest competitor turned out to be FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni, who hasn’t quite yet made the transition from promising young talent to genuine sprint force.
Still, that shouldn’t detract from the German’s impressive performance, on top of his two wins at the Tour Down Under. There’s no doubt that he’s seriously in form at the moment, with the training over the hard winter months paying dividends.
Low-key return for the Schlecks
Trek brought the brothers Frank and Andy Schleck to Oman, as they both look to put a difficult 2013 behind them. Frank certainly didn’t perform too badly, eventually finishing inside the top 20, less than three minutes down on the overall winner. Andy didn’t fare quite so well, eventually finishing over 20 minutes down on Froome in 72nd place. Having targeted a top-ten before the race, he probably didn’t enjoy his week in the Middle East.
However, it’s still early days, and too soon to give up on the hope that Andy will one day find his best form again. He’s reportedly targeting Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April, and understandably seems reluctant to look too far ahead to the Tour de France. But this really does feel like a make-or-break year for Andy, who hasn’t got a single noteworthy result on his palmarès in the last couple of years.
Race at a glance
915.5 – Total kilometres raced in the 2014 Tour of Oman.
26 – In seconds, Chris Froome‘s margin of overall victory.
6 – The number of stage wins for Andre Greipel so far this season – two more than anyone else, with the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) having picked up four.
13.5 – The average gradient of three of the last four kilometres of Green Mountain. Races in the Middle East certainly aren’t all flat!
948 – Days and counting since Andy Schleck last won a race. Let’s hope this year will finally see him return to his best form again.
Stage 1: Winner – Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol). Leader – Greipel.
Stage 2: Winner – Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). Leader – Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Stage 3: Winner – Greipel. Leader – Greipel.
Stage 4: Winner – Peter Sagan (Cannondale). Leader – Sagan.
Stage 5: Winner – Chris Froome (Sky). Leader – Froome.
Stage 6: Winner – Greipel. Overall winner – Froome.
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 22:02:26
2. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:26
3. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:31
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:48
5. Robert Gesink (Belkin) +0:57
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:01
7. Sergio Henao (Sky) +1:19
8. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1:25
9. Johan Tschopp (IAM) +1:32
10. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +1:34
Race links & reports: Official website, cyclingnews.com