Tour of Oman: Contador, Nibali, Velits, Froome and Evans relishing chance to attack Sagan tomorrow
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tour of Oman: Contador, Nibali, Velits, Froome and Evans relishing chance to attack Sagan tomorrow

by VeloNation Press at 1:26 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Oman
 
Race to top of Green Mountain will prove decisive to the general classification

Alberto ContadorAlthough Peter Sagan reinforced his lead with his second consecutive stage win in the Tour of Oman today, a number of climbers are poised to strike on tomorrow’s stage to the top of Green Mountain. Alberto Contador (Team Saxo Tinkoff), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and last year’s winner Peter Velits (Omega Pharma Quick Step) are seventh, eighth and ninth, just over half a minute back, while 2012 Tour de France runner up Chris Froome (Sky) is thirteenth, 36 seconds down.

The 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) is a further four seconds behind and also plans to go all out tomorrow.

Although Sagan has won races like the Tour of Poland in the past, he is yet to climb at the same level as those other riders on the longer climbs. And while he has dominated the past two days’ racing, Green Mountain may prove to long and steep for him to hang on. That won’t stop him trying, though, even if he admits he has a big battle at hand.

“The final ascent is a hard climb. I will wait for attacks from the GC riders, both for the stage win and overall leadership,” he said. “I know it will be hard to keep the jersey, but above all, it will be a useful test to understand my resistance on these climbs.”

Of those waiting in the wings, Contador will be amongst the most feared. He’s already taken a mountain stage win this year in the Tour de San Luis and was fourth today on a finish that didn’t suit him particularly well.

“Stage 3 went without problems, the first part had a headwind but the finish was very explosive, as usual. The legs are better each day,” he said via his Twitter account.

His directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman was also encouraged. “Alberto crossed the finish line with the first riders. Maybe he lost a few seconds to Sagan but we're pleased that he's showing promising condition,” he said. “Obviously, he's top motivated for the challenges ahead of us.”

Nibali is one second behind Contador and 33 off Sagan’s race lead. He’s also close enough to grab the race leader’s red jersey, and is relatively satisfied with his eleventh place today.

"We'll see how the race goes tomorrow to see if the time lost today is important or not,” he said. “I felt good all day, despite the heat, and the team was working well for me for the whole race. The last 20k were very fast, and I was in a good position for the final. The sprint at the end was very hard, but these seconds could be very important on Thursday.”

Froome had been sitting sixth before the start of the stage but lost out slightly when he placed thirteenth, nine seconds behind Sagan and eight off Contador. He is nevertheless pleased with how he is going in what is his debut race of the 2013 season.

“I didn’t have the legs to follow the likes of Sagan on that final climb, and I lost a few seconds as a result, but today was a big display of strength from the team and I’m grateful for what they did for me,” he said.

“This is my first race of the season and I’m happy where my form is at the moment. I’m in a lot better position than I was last year, feeling good, and ready for tomorrow’s decisive stage.”

Like the other Grand Tour riders, he is likely to feel more at home on the tougher climb of Green Mountain, and will be another that Sagan will have to watch closely as he tries to safeguard his red jersey.

Ditto for Evans, although his 40 second deficit puts him a little further behind the other GC specialists. “It was a bit of a repeat of yesterday in the final, with Sagan winning again,” he wrote on his online diary after the stage. “I was following him at 1.5km from the line where he made an impressive MTB move around the side of the group, avoided crashing, puncturing and then winning... Our Greg [Van Avermaet] was good for second.

As for tomorrow, he’s eager to see how he fares in what is his first race and first proper summit finish of the year. “A real climb to test ourselves on and what will most likely shape the final GC. For myself, it's another little test to see how I'm going...not as good as some, but not too bad...”

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