Christian Vande Velde Garmin-Cervelo) had predicted he would do well on the uphill finish at the Tour of Oman and rode an intelligent ride to finish fifth on the stage and so stay in contention for overall victory.
Vande Velde lost 53 seconds to Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who won alone and dedicated the victory to his late farther. However, despite being over-geared on the final part of the climb, Vande Velde was pleased with his performance. He made the front group when the peloton split in the crosswinds and was in the select group that pursued Gesink all the way to the finish at 1,235 metres.
"I was happy with how I responded on the climb. It was horrible but I'm very happy. It was a positive day for me," he told Cyclingnews, sitting the shade of a car, while trying to recover from his effort.
"I was over-geared and so I was barely moving in the last 400 metres. I could have done with some more gears.
"With about 40km to go, we went crazy for about two kilometres and then it was a headwind and really hard all the way to the climb.
"Gesink was flying up the climb but that wasn't a surprise. He's at a different level right now. I didn't know who the Quick Step kid was (Dries Devenyns) but I thought Visconti would be up there. Boasson Hagen was good too. He made a good recovery at the end and rode right by me."
Vande Velde will start the 18.5km time trial at 16:10 local time on Saturday, with just Devenyns, Boasson Hagen and Gesink starting after him.
He is 1:03 behind Gesink in the general classification but only 19 seconds behind Boasson Hagen. Experience will be vital in judging pace and power during the rolling time trial. Despite the warm weather in Oman it is still only February and most riders’ form is built on a base of winter training rather than double digit days of racing.
Vande Velde rightly believes he has a chance but is wary of the amount of hard climbing in the time trial.
"It was going through my mind with one kilometre to go. I said, 'Jeez, I've more climbing to do tomorrow'.
"Let's see how everybody feels during their rides. But my form is good."