Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) may not have much time to celebrate his first victory of the season as he races to catch his flight back to Europe but he can take confidence from it after doubting himself in the Oman heat. Brändle stole the march on his four break companions to take a morale-boosting win on the final stage of the Tour of Oman.
The Austrian was feeling strong after racing in Qatar but his confidence took a battering as the mercury pushed beyond the 40-degree mark. “It’s always nice to have such an early victory. Last year it took me a lot longer,” Brändle said at the stage finish at the Matrah Corniche.
“It was also really close in the Qatar time trial and if I had paced myself a little better I could have been on the podium but my condition was really good. Today was really important for me because over the last six days I’ve been questioning myself. My body was not working and I could not give the power to the pedal. After all that it was good for me to win.”
Fortunately for Brändle the temperatures dropped to a more manageable 30 degrees for the final day and - at 133.5 kilometres - it was the shortest stage of the week, favouring a strong breakaway. Brändle has form in successful breakaways, taking two in a row at the Tour of Britain last year in very similar circumstances, and he was keen to have a go.
“I had a look at the forecast and it was 30 degrees and I started to dream about winning this stage,” said Brändle. “It was a little bit like in Britain, we were strong riders we worked together and I told them we had to do a bit of a team time trial and keep a good speed. We had to work together in the climbs to make sure that we didn’t push too hard in the climbs.
“We knew that they wouldn’t catch us: if they go faster, then we go faster. It was a hard stage from the beginning to the end.”
Still young, despite beginning his sixth season as a professional, Brändle is a rider on the up after a huge 2014 that culminated in him breaking the Hour Record in October. It has since been taken off him by BMC’s Rohan Dennis but it showed his ability to dig deep and that is what he had to do on the final day in Oman.
The breakaway was able to build up a substantial gap of nine minutes before the peloton got their act together and started to reel them in. The catch may have been possible had the climbs been further away from the finish but in the end the four men out front played it perfectly. With his track speed, Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) was the biggest worry for Brändle and he knew that he had to shake him before the line.
“I attacked him in the last climb because I saw that he was suffering a bit in the climbs. So I thought, don’t take a risk, try to drop him before the final and the percentage of winning will be higher if we go to a sprint,” explained Brändle.
“With two kilometres left I thought that I had a really good gap and then I looked back at one kilometre and he was coming really close so I put in another effort and I dropped him and I thought he was giving up.”
Brändle now returns with most of the peloton to Europe, and he will ride Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on next Sunday, March 1.
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