Froome with a view
February 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Hi

Oman occupies a special place in Christopher Froome's scheme of things. The Kenya-born, British cyclist (who topped the 2014 Tour of Oman last week) sees the Sultanate as an ideal venue to kick-start the gruelling season, as it helps him test his preparedness for the tougher challenges vying with the Who's Who of the cycling world.

It was in 2013 that Froome made his debut in the Tour of Oman, the six-stage race being held as part of the Muscat Festival every year. Donning the Team Sky jersey, the 6-feet tall cyclist finished on top of the podium upstaging fancied rivals like Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali.

His triumph in 2013 had given him a head-start and he successfully kept the momentum throughout the season. His biggest moment came in July when he pedalled his way to glory in Tour de France, the pinnacle of cycling competition, in its 100th edition.

Coming back to Oman for the 2014 edition of the race, the Briton was among one of the favourites to win the title (held from February 18 to 23, 2014). He didn't begin the race on a bright note, and was trailing behind at No.8 after four stages. But he surged to the top in the fifth stage – the 147.5 km mountainous stretch from Bid Bid to Jabal Akhdar, also known as the Queen Stage of the tour – in three hours, 49 minutes and 53 seconds.

The triumph assured him of the title with one round to go. So he rode cautiously in the final stage from As Sifah to Muttrah Corniche to maintain his 26-second advantage over his nearest rival United States' Tejay van Garderen. With this triumph, Froome has become the first cyclist in the history of the Tour of Oman to win the title for two consecutive seasons. It is indeed a fabulous achievement considering the quality of the competition.

"Tour of Oman is a great competition in Asia and I always enjoy participating in it," Froome told Hi Weekly soon after emerging the champion on February 23. That is why Froome doesn't have any doubts about the growth potential of the event.

"Tour of Oman has grown in stature over the years, and it is evident from the fact that it attracts the participation of biggest names in the cycling world," he observed. And the champion cyclist wants to see the tour as one of the best events in the World. "I would like to see it emerge as the best race in the world that will keep the interests of the fans in this part of the World."

Intensive training
The victory, in fact, sent out ominous warnings to his rivals who aim to dethrone the 28-year-old in the Tour de France this year. And Froome felt the win was a reward for intensive training in South Africa.  "The win indicates that we didn't get our preparations wrong. This success is a reward for a winter spent resting and the intensive training in South Africa."

Though he is satisfied with his overall level of fitness, Froome feels that he has a lot of room for improvement. "I still have a lot of work to do. There is a lot of room for improvement. I'll travel home to Monaco now and take a few days off before honing my condition again for Tirreno-Adriatico in two weeks," he charted out his plans.

Tour of Oman 2014 – Final standings
General Classification
1. Chris Froome (Great Britain, Team Sky, 22 hours, 2 minutes, 26 seconds)
2. Tejay van Garderen (United States, BMC Racing Team, +26 seconds)
3. Rigoberto Urán (Colombia, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, +31 seconds)

Point classification
1. Andre Greipel (Germany, Lotto-Belisol, 45 points)
2. Nacer Bouhanni (France,, 34 points)
3. Peter Sagan (Slovakia, Cannondale, 28 points)

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