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Chris Froome controls, confounds Alberto Contador to defend Tour of Oman lead

BOSHAR, Oman (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) ensured his Tour of Oman overall win with authority on Friday, controlling relentless attacks by Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and out-sprinting him for the win.

“It was a lot harder than a lot of people expected. They really did throw everything at me. Saxo lit it up and took a lot of people by surprise. The bunch was blown to pieces,” Froome said.

He spoke quietly but confidently as the press huddled around him while he warmed down on his turbo trainer.

“My main goal today was not to lose time to Contador,” Froome continued. “I was in straight into defense mode.”

Froome placed second Thursday on Green Mountain and moved into the overall lead by 24 seconds over Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Contador sat a further second back.

Contador threw everything he could at Froome in the 144km leg south of Muscat. After an early nine-man escape was caught, Saxo-Tinkoff took charge on the three ascents of Bousher Alamrat, whittling the pack down to 25-35 riders on the second climb and prepared for Contador’s launch.

Joe Dombrowski rode pace for Sky through the opening kilometers, drawing the attention of the boss.

“Joe really impressed me,” team principal David Brailsford told VeloNews.

Bradley Wiggins and the others worked through the first two climbs. Richie Porte stood by Froome when Contador started attacking.

“The last time up it we were in ones and twos. It was a lot more brutal than it looks on paper,” Froome said.

“I had in my mind that I’d always be with teammates and we’d be a strong enough unit, but to have it all blown to pieces on the second climb left me a bit exposed.”

Contador’s attack brought out Froome and Thursday’s stage winner, Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), for the final 12.5km descent to the finish line.

“Rodríguez and I just managed to close the gap by the top of the climb,” Froome said. “We rolled through together and the last two kilometers were quite tactical, a lot of attacking, but I could see the sprint was a head/crosswind so I was on the front and thought I’d start the sprint to try to finish it off.

“It surprised them how much of a headwind it was when they tried to come around me, and the road curved round and they had to come a long way.”

Froome edged ahead of Contador for the 10-second bonus. Rodríguez was just behind in third. A group of six with Evans finished four seconds back.

“It’s a pity that I haven’t won by centimeters,” Contador said. “I’m not in top form but I’m very pleased with the image the team has given.”

Contador appeared upset about the loss even if the season has just begun. Like Froome, he aims for the Tour de France in July.

“Coming to a race and treating it as if it was a training ride is not something that I can do,” he said.

Froome is set to win his first stage race on Saturday in Muscat. He has 27 seconds on Contador and 39 on Evans, who finished eighth on the day.

“For Alberto to overtake me on the general classification, he had to work his team a lot,” Evans said. “His team worked well, and, in the end, it succeeded for them. I consolidated my losses and tried to play it in the final. I expected the group to come back in the end, but they didn’t come back.”

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), who sprinted to victory on day one, is the favorite for Saturday’s finale. Peter Sagan (Cannondale), winner of two stages, abandoned due to a sore throat.