Fabian Cancellara sprinted to victory in the 195-kilometer stage two at the Tour of Oman Wednesday. The stage, which started at Al Hazm Castle, ended with the three-kilometer Al Jissah climb that topped out five kilometers from the finish.
An attack by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) drew out the strongest climbing legs at the crest of the final decisive climb, but did little more than stretch out the top 15 or so riders; on the fast descent that followed 19 riders regrouped and stormed into the final kilometer. At the end of a long, hot day it was an on-form Cancellara that powered to the gradual uphill win, leaving Valverde and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) the minor placings respectively.
“I am really super happy and satisfied about this win. It’s a deserved win and gives a lot of confidence for us,” said a clearly elated Cancellara. “We were already good in Qatar but missed a few occasions and never had the result, and this confirms everything. We did a really good meeting yesterday to wake up and motivate everyone again, and today everyone did great. Today is the benefit of everyone doing his job, and that allows me to stay calm during the race; now we got the win and that is really amazing.”
Julian Arredondo also finished in 6th place; he was the first rider to crest the Al Jissah climb, while Cancellara paced himself not far behind. With three BMC riders in the leading group of 19 the situation played to Cancellara’s favor.
“BMC had three riders there and that was good. They pushed the pace on the downhill, and controlled it to the finish so there was no attacking,” added Cancellara.“I was a bit scared of attacks since I had only one push left and that was for the sprint.
“It was 40 degrees again today, and so dry, and at mid-way I suffered a lot. But then when we reached the coast it changed from dry to more humidity, and suddenly everything went better. I went to the car, received some things to help me cool down and refresh, and I was race-ready again.
“The boys helped me a lot today. They were always around me, they helped me before the climb, after the climb, and Julian helped in the climb…he was able to follow the best and I was just behind. It was a good situation for us, and then I knew that I only needed to keep my rhythm in the climb.”
The Tour of Qatar was a difficult race this year, and Trek Factory Racing arrived to Oman with a desire to better Cancellara’s second place in the stage three time trial.
“Yesterday in the meeting I told the team I wanted to go for the stage win today. I had focused on a few stages here to really race, not just try a bit, but really focus on the racing. Then I got a cold on the way here from Qatar and I was a bit down. But I told myself that I still have good legs, I had good rest, and the team really rallied around me. It all worked out today,” said Cancellara.
“The whole team worked hard for this, already in Qatar, and the level in Qatar and Oman is higher than previous years. With this win in the pocket, with [Bob] Jungels’ win, with Bauke Mollema’s second place, it shows that we are on the good way this year. It shows what we did last year was just the beginning and this year we are on schedule to build on that.
“We also have news that Fabio Silvestre was second in Spain today and this is great. I think it shows the team has done a great winter. It’s good for us, the team, and for Trek our sponsor, all our sponsors. Of course I still want to go for more. I am still working hard towards what I want to achieve - I am performance focused.”