Chris Froome (Sky) flies home to Monaco today with his first stage race win, the Tour of Oman in his palmarès. The victory, he said, indicates he is on track for the Tour de France.
"I would say that it's showing that I'm worth backing, but I think it helps build my confidence," Froome said in an exclusive press chat. "It helps build the team's confidence, my team-mates around me and the support staff, knowing that their actually backing a horse that can win."
Froome won the six-day stage race around Muscat ahead of some illustrious names. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) competed. That is not even mentioning his team-mate and Tour winner, Bradley Wiggins.
Wiggins led Froome's support team, which included some of his Tour domestiques like Richie Porte and Christian Knees. Sky fielded some new signings as well, including Dario Cataldo and Vasil Kiryienka.
They put Froome into position to take the overall lead on Thursday when the stage finished on Green Mountain. Froome defended himself against numerous attacks by Contador on Friday, and won the stage. They finished it off yesterday, Froome wining the overall by 27 seconds over Contador.
"It's quite a daunting feeling knowing that everyone is there for you," Froome continued. "Being able to finish it off, winning a stage... I know that's the main goal, that's what everyone here is working for, the fact that I can finish it off like that makes it all worth it. All of us will come away with a smile on our faces."
Froome smiles because he proved to the team that he is worthy of its support for the Tour.
"It's still very early days," he said, "but I think when I came here there was question mark about where I'd be with all these big names, I guess confidence is growing this week."
The Kenya-born Brit supported Wiggins last year in the Tour and placed second overall. Over the winter, Sky indicated he would lead the team with Wiggins possibly being co-leader or even super-domestique.
Wiggins races the Giro d'Italia first in May. Afterwards, he and Sky will assess his plans.
Froome prepared for his new role this winter based at his new home near Johannesburg.
"This is just a really good indication where my form is at the moment and that the training I've done over the past couple of months in Johannesburg has been the right kind of training. And with the Majorca camps in early January, that it's all paid off. It's heading in the right direction."
Contador, Nibali and Rodríguez had raced already in Argentina at the Tour of Argentina. Froome put in the miles, but lacked top-end training. Due to that, he explained that the win was even more pleasing.
Froome arrives in Monaco today, prepares for Tirreno-Adriatico and keeps an eye on the Tour.
"As far as the Tour is concerned," added Froome, "I think that I've shown in the last three Grand Tours that I'm there or there abouts in contention."
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