Chris Froome (Sky) said that he is eager to repeat his wins this season, starting with the Tour of Oman next week (February 18-23). Oman set off a run that included five stage race victories with the Tour de France as well.
"I wouldn't say I have the same kind of pressure that I had last year for Oman," Froome said in a Sky press release. "I'm a lot more relaxed coming into this season, but at the same time I feel just as eager and just as motivated to get stuck into the racing.
"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. But 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."
Froome took the lead on the summit finish to Green Mountain and defended it against Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) the next day. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) placed third and fourth.
Oman offered a taste of things to come for 2013. Froome placed second in Tirreno-Adriatico and won the Critérium International, the Tour of Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné before heading to do the same in the Tour de France.
The Tour of Oman will be "a pretty tough race" again this year. Froome faces Rodríguez, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Robert Gesink (Belkin) – most all of them will be Tour de France rivals. Starting in Oman, he said he wants to repeat his wins.
"I want to back up everything I achieved last season and prove to people that I am a legitimate champion. Especially in this era of cycling, there's so much doubt around what we're doing and I sincerely want to prove to people they can believe in this sport again, believe in me, and believe in Team Sky. I hope last year's not going to be a one-off for me because of that would raise doubts," Froome explained.
"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."
Team Sky met at its training camp in Mallorca, Spain, and presented itself to the press two weeks ago. Froome, however, stayed away from Europe all winter by travelling and training in Africa. He first stopped in Kenya and then went to his home in South Africa. He trained with Kanstantsin Siutsou and had support from driver/carer Claudio Lucchini.
"[Training has] been going really well," Froome said. "It's been quite a busy winter with lots going on behind the scenes, but I'm really happy to have been able to concentrate on what I'm supposed to be doing, which is riding my bike. That's what I love, and that hasn't been compromised, which is great.
"We've mainly been training in and around Johannesburg but we've also done a week up in the mountains at a place called Crystal Springs. That's up at altitude at 1800 metres with big climbs every day - so it definitely provided some decent riding."
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