Sir Bradley Wiggins bounced back from finishing last on Monday's opening stage of the Tour of Oman with a solid performance on the demandingly technical and hilly finale, finishing in a leading group of some 50 riders that crossed the line just behind Sky team-mate Chris Froome.
A relentlessly rising kilometre long drag of a climb, followed a breakneck, curving descent to a nasty sharp little final uphill was tough enough terrain to shatter the peloton. But Wiggins and Froome remained in the thick of the action, with Froome well-placed overall before tomorrow's decisive stage. Both the stage win and the lead went to 2012 Tour de France points jersey winner Peter Sagan after he streaked past late attacker Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland. Froome, now designated leader for Sky in Oman, reacted quickly to take sixth, slightly ahead of a front group of strongest riders that included Wiggins.
"It was a good day for us." Wiggins told The Independent afterwards as he wheeled his way through spectators, "A bit tricky in places on that descent and I'm glad I stayed upright. It wasn't too bad. We rode steady most of the day, and it was only in the final that it really hotted up and Chris [Froome] was up there, which was good."
While Wiggins finishing with the bulk of the other top names means he has climbed nearly 90 places overall – but remains two minutes back on Sagan after losing time and finishing last when he was blocked in by a late crash on Monday – Froome was equally satisfied with a performance that has him ideally placed for Thursday.
"The speed we were going up there on the last climb was quite something," Froome told The Independent, "but that climb was hard enough to split the bunch. I was there or thereabouts, and I think I'm right on track. The team did a fantastic job. They kept me out of trouble and out of the wind all day, so I'm happy."
Just 23 but already with 40 career victories to his name, Sagan said afterwards that he was more than content to be leading, but would surely struggle on Thursday's nine kilometre final ascent of the Green Mountain.
"I don't think I can defend the lead, even if I might win on Thursday, because I did last year on the same finish. Green Mountain, though, is a finish for riders like Alberto Contador." And perhaps for Froome, too.