Sagan strikes again in Oman, but wants classics glory

Attention set to turn to Nibali, Contador and the Sky tandem after Sagan wins two in Oman

WADI DAYQAH DAM, Oman (VN) — Peter Sagan (Cannondale) delivered another early season blow to his rivals on Wednesday, winning for the second time at Wadi Dayqah Dam in the Tour of Oman. Many of the bigs, like world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), were left searching for answers further back on the road.

“It’s only the second race for me and many others, like Gilbert,” Sagan said. “I don’t think we are at our best yet. It’s still too soon.”

The unstoppable Slovak shot away on an uphill kick for a second consecutive day and added to his overall lead, now at 16 seconds over Frenchman Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Leopard).

Greg Van Avermaet salvaged BMC Racing’s work with second place, leading home a group of chasers one second behind Sagan. Gallopin was there, too, for third, while the others were seconds back.

Chris Froome leads Sky and aims for the Tour de France, still five five months away. He benefited from Sky’s work and placed 13th. Unlike most favorites — including Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) — the Brit would not immediately speak to the press.

Teammate and Tour winner Bradley Wiggins was the same. They rode down the mountain 700 meters, where Froome said he needed to warm-down on rollers.

Locals beat drums, setting the rhythm as riders rolled up to the dam one by one. Nibali, third at the Tour last year, placed 11th.

“We were all together until the last bit. Sagan controlled it well. When he went, he won easily,” Nibali told VeloNews. “In these types of finishes, he’s perfect and explosive; it’s hard to take him on.”

The Tour of Oman enjoys its fourth year, but not yet live television. According riders’ reports, Sagan launched at 500 meters out. The road rose and dived for the last 10km. At 700 meters, it kicked for one final time, easing 500 meters later for the final approach to the line.

Sagan had time to celebrate at the finish, but with no running man or “I’m number one” salute.

“I was at front, Marco Marcato [Vacansoleil-DCM] attacked, I went after him,” Sagan said. “There were another 100 meters uphill and I thought that I needed to be alone for the flat section. I was able to win in that way.”

Locals and press standing under the warm Omani sun today put their money on Sagan to double up. He failed to disappoint.

His hopes are truly pinned on the classics this year. Sagan wants win one of the big ones, monuments like Milano-Sanremo and the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), or the long-running Dutch one-day, Amstel Gold Race.

“I hope,” Sagan said, “I can also arrive with this sort of form for the classics, not only here.”

He must first race the final three days of the Tour of Oman, which feature a true summit finish tomorrow on Green Mountain. Sagan ruled himself out, saying that he would be lucky to remain within 20 seconds of the winner, which therefore turns everyone’s attention to Nibali, Contador and the silent types, Wiggins and Froome.