Tour de France Champ Chris Froome Eyes Tour of Oman Win

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by BenoƮt NOEL

MUSCAT, Feb 17, 2014 (AFP) – Tour de France champion Christopher Froome
says he wants to show last year’s success was no fluke as he kicks off his
2014 campaign in the Tour of Oman that starts Tuesday.

The 28-year-old Kenyan-born Briton built up the momentum to take cycling’s
most prestigious title with a victory last year in Oman and hopes to put down
a marker in a field full of strong rivals.

“I want to back up everything I achieved last season and prove to people
that I am a legitimate champion,” Froome told his Team Sky’s website.

He added that he was more relaxed ahead of the Oman race but stressed he
was expecting a hard battle in the heat.

“Oman is always a place where you don’t quite have the same kind of
pressure as in Europe in terms of the press and thousands of spectators,” he
said.

Froome’s main rivals are likely to be Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali, who won
last year’s Giro d’Italia and Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez from Team Katusha, who
was third in the general classification in last year’s Tour de France.

“It’s certainly going to be a high level of racing and from the competitors
who are lining up there it’s shaping up to be a pretty tough race,” said
Froome.

Other strong contenders will be Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, who is hoping
to get his career back on track after last year’s suspension for a banned
diuretic.

Dutchman Robert Gesink, who won the Tour of Oman in 2011, will also be hard
on Froome’s wheel.

Froome won the Tour of Oman last year in fine style, beating previous Tour
de France winners Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans.

The Sky star had a 27-second advantage over Spain’s Contador in the overall
standings with Australia’s Evans 39 seconds away in third.

The fifth edition of the Tour of Oman is a hilly six-stage event, with the
main climb coming on Saturday which has a steep mountaintop finish. The race
finishes on Sunday.

Froome said his winter training in South Africa should stand him in good
stead for the heat of the Oman course.

“It’s like Australia here in that the sun is really powerful,” he said.

“It’s something that’s very different to the European summer. In Europe the
sun isn’t quite as strong, whereas here it burns you properly.”

Froome revealed that his main motivation was to back up his stellar
achievements of last year to avoid doubts over his performance in the
drug-ridden sport.

“I hope last year’s not going to be a one-off for me because that would
raise doubts,” he said.

“I want to back up my results for the next five years at least to prove
that nothing was a fluke. My results will stand the test of time and I want to
erase any doubt about them – that’s a massive motivation.”

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