THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Saturday 16 February 2013
Last update 15 February 2013 10:54 pm
MUSCAT: Tour de France runner-up Christopher Froome extended his overall lead in the Tour of Oman after holding off Alberto Contador and Oliver Joaquim Rodriguez to win the fifth stage yesterday.
Froome, a Team Sky rider who grabbed the lead after the fourth stage, finished the 144-km trek from Al Alam Palace to Boshar in 3 1/2 hours. Froome beat Team Saxo’s Contador to the line. Katusha’s Rodriguez, who won the fourth stage, also was edged out.
With one stage remaining, Froome leads Contador by 27 seconds overall. Former Tour winner Cadel Evans is a further 12 seconds back.
With about 25 km left, Froome and Contador caught a breakaway group of nine riders.
As they approached the third and final climb, Contador attacked first but couldn’t shake Froome while Tony Gallopin and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins dropped back. Contador, Rodriguez and Froome extended their lead on a group of seven.
The front three held a 20-second lead over the group with 3 km remaining before it came down to a sprint.
“It was a really exciting finish, coming down to a sprint between me, Alberto and Rodriguez. Luckily I just managed to get the better of them on the line,” Froome said.
“Tomorrow, hopefully the sprinters’ teams will take advantage of the flatter profile and it should end in a sprint if all goes to plan. I’ve extended my lead to 27 seconds, so it puts us in a good place going into tomorrow’s stage.” Team Saxo Sports Director Lars Michaelsen praised Contador, a two-time Tour winner stripped of a third title for using a banned substance, for his late attack.
“Our plan was to have a rider out there to support Alberto when he according to plan launched an attack from the bunch. Alberto keeps trying and trying, and even takes bonus seconds along the way to climb up the General Classification,” Michaelsen said. “It’s really admirable that he keeps insisting throughout the stage, and this way he repays his fans, his sponsors and his team. He’s simply a winner and, apparently, no one can hold him back when he gets a smell of victory.”