Decisive hilly time trial stage suits the Norwegian
Edvald Boasson Hagen pulled on three jerseys at the end of stage two of the Tour of Oman on Monday but quickly made it clear he's only targeting one of them.
The 22 year-old Norwegian, who has been affectionately nicknamed Eddy –as in Eddy Merckx, as well as Edvald, by his teammates at Team Sky, pulled on the white best young rider's jersey, the green points jersey and the red race leader's jersey after finishing third on the stage behind Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions).
During Tuesday's 124km third stage from Saifat Ash Shiekh to Qurayvat, Boasson Hagen will wear the leader's red jersey and hopes to keep it until after the probable decisive stage, the 18.5km time trial on Friday.
"It was great job by the whole team and it's good to get the leader's jersey thanks to the time bonuses. Now we've got to try and keep it for the rest of the week," he said after patiently collecting his three jersey, three trophies and three bouquets of flowers on the podium.
"The Tour of Oman is a harder race than Qatar and so hopefully it's possible I can win it. It's early in the season and I've done mainly cross country skiing rather than long hours on the bike, so I wasn't expecting to have good form, but I feel good now and hopefully I can keep going like this."
Friday's time trial includes some leg-sapping rollercoaster hills in the first section before diving down to the capital Muscat. The hills and length of the stage will mean the pure sprinters will have no chance of victory, but the same factors give Boasson Hagen a great chance to win his first stage race for Team Sky.
"I hope so. But it's a lot up and down. Hopefully I can manage to go fast in the time trial as well in the sprints in the next few days," Boasson Hagen said.
Cancellara, Pinotti and Bennati
World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) is the natural favourite for the time trial, but he is still working on his early season form and revealed he might not be a threat to Boasson Hagen. He could still win the time trial but could lose time during the hilly stages.
"I'm taking things day by day and it's a bit early to start thinking about the final time trial," he told Cyclingnews. "Let's see what the two hilly stages bring and then we'll see how things stand and decide what to do on the last day."
Boasson Hagen's biggest overall rival could be Italy's Marco Pinotti. HTC-Columbia brought him out to the Tour of Oman specifically to target the overall and the final time trial. However there are other names to remember. Stage two winner Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) could be an interesting outsider that many would overlook. But the Italian was happy to add his name to the list of possible overall winners.
"I'm back to my best after working really hard in the winter and I think I showed it by winning the sprint. I'm a decent time trialist and can get over the hills, so I'm hoping I can be up there. With time bonuses on ever on each stage before then, it could be very close," Bennati said.
We will find out just how close on Friday afternoon.