Oomen battles knee pain to remain in Algarve hunt

22-year-old Dutchman leads youth category, but knee pain could force him to abandon

Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb) put aside a knee injury to go on the attack during stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve on Thursday. The young Dutchman attacked on the final climb in a bid to win the stage but was caught before the top. He hung on to 13th place on the summit finish at Foia and remains in possession of the best young rider's jersey. He crossed the line six seconds down on stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) but admits that his left knee has been causing him pain.

"The knee was the same as yesterday. At the beginning of the stage today, when the pace wasn't that high, then it was pretty painful. Once the race really started and the adrenaline kicked in, I didn't really feel it. Now the race is finished, the feeling is coming again," he told Cyclingnews as he warmed-down on the rollers.

Oomen, who was a consistent performer in almost every stage race he entered in 2017, came into the Volta ao Algarve with a free role after opening his season at the Tour Down Under. He attacked alongside Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) on the final climb in a bid to catch lone leader Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), however the peloton regrouped before the summit.

For Oomen, who will make his Giro d'Italia debut later this year, the stage to Foia represented a chance for him to show his condition. The injury to his left knee has been troubling him for a short period of time, but Oomen and the Sunweb medical team appear to be managing the situation on a day-by-day basis.

"If I was good enough I knew that I could try something. I've got the freedom to do it. I thought, 'Why not, let's try it'," he said.

"Today everyone was waiting for the final, but it wasn't really an explosive climb. I gave it a good try and I'm happy with the form. Hopefully I can start without pain tomorrow.”

Oomen's closet rival in the young rider classification is André Carvalho (Liberty Seguros-Carglass), but the homegrown rider is over two minutes down after just two stages. Friday's time trial should see Oomen put the competition out of reach, but with major goals to come this year his biggest obstacle could be his knee. If he and the Sunweb medical staff deem this to be a risk, he could be taken out of action in order to allow his body to fully recover.

"I don't know who my contenders are for the jersey, but I don't have much stress for this race," he said. "I'm happy with the shape that I had on the final climb. The knee is just the problem. That's the only thing."

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