It didn’t take long for Dan Pearson to roll to a halt after the crossing the finish line in seventh place on Saturday’s stage of the Tour of Oman.
The severe gradient on Jabar Al Akhdhar – Green Mountain – all but stopped him in his tracks and, with the searing heat baking all the riders as they climbed the five-kilometre ascent, he soon found a place in the shade of the roadside wall.
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It had been a notable performance for the Welshman, though he was remarkably sanguine about his achievement.
“It was a good effort. It was a step up from last year so I’m quite happy,” he breathed between gulps of water.
Seventh was indeed a step up for 23-year-old Pearson, though the 11th place he collected last year was not to be sniffed at either, especially in what was his first year at Pro Continental level with Aqua Blue Sport.
Today’s ride saw Pearson finish ahead of luminaries such as Tour, Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali who won the corresponding stage in 2016, and former world champion Rui Costa, among others. Indeed he rode away from group containing those two to finish just 33 seconds behind stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).
“The worst thing to contend with was the heat,” he continued. “It was so hot you just could can’t put the power out when your heart rate is over the normal limit. You’ve got to make sure you keep yourself cool and not go too early because as soon as you overheat you’re knackered.
“I had to slip back a little bit as they drove it at the start because there is no need to go so deep there and I was probably in 15th or 16th wheel. People were just dropping out of line as they were getting cooked and you just have to close those gaps and work your way up to the front.”
Eventually Pearson found himself in a group with Nibali, Costa among others and, able to attack, he did.
“You can’t look at it and say ‘this is Nibali’ you just think he’s strong and I can follow him, you think about them as a strong rider, like in another bike race.
“I didn’t want to go alone before that downhill, so I waited and started going on the steep bit and no one was really doing anything, so I thought I would give it a go.
“I didn’t really attack super-hard I just tried to pace myself really, and ride my own pace to the top.”
Aqua Blue has achieved excellent results in the Middle East campaign to date. Testament, Pearson believes, to the excellent team work in the Irish-registered outfit.
“The guys looked after me really well all day, we have really come together as a team. You see in Dubai they were pulling for Adam really well and Adam was getting up there, Mark [Christian] got up there yesterday and I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
For tomorrow’s final stage, Aqua Blue are likely to be working for sprinter Adam Blythe, and it is not yet clear whether Pearson will have to look after himself to retain his seventh place on general classification.
Should he do so, and continue his clear year-on-year improvements, he has a chance of attracting attention from bigger teams in what is the last year of his contract.