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Oman Preview: Froome kicks off 2014 campaign

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AFP / Yuzuru Sunada

Tour de France champion Christopher Froome says he wants to show last year’s success was no fluke as he kicks off his 2014 campaign in the Tour of Oman that starts Tuesday. The 28-year-old Kenyan-born Briton built up the momentum to take cycling’s most prestigious title with a victory last year in Oman and hopes to put down a marker in a field full of strong rivals.

“I want to back up everything I achieved last season and prove to people that I am a legitimate champion,” Froome told his Team Sky’s website.

He added that he was more relaxed ahead of the Oman race but stressed he was expecting a hard battle in the heat.

“Oman is always a place where you don’t quite have the same kind of pressure as in Europe in terms of the press and thousands of spectators,” he said.

Froome’s main rivals are likely to be Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali, who won last year’s Giro d’Italia and Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez from Team Katusha, who was third in the general classification in last year’s Tour de France.

“It’s certainly going to be a high level of racing and from the competitors who are lining up there it’s shaping up to be a pretty tough race,” said Froome.

Other strong contenders will be Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck, who is hoping to get his career back on track after last year’s suspension for a banned diuretic. Dutchman Robert Gesink, who won the Tour of Oman in 2011, will also be hard on Froome’s wheel.

Froome won the Tour of Oman last year in fine style, beating previous Tour de France winners Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans. The Sky star had a 27-second advantage over Spain’s Contador in the overall standings with Australia’s Evans 39 seconds away in third. The fifth edition of the Tour of Oman is a hilly six-stage event, with the main climb coming on Saturday which has a steep mountaintop finish. The race finishes on Sunday. Froome said his winter training in South Africa should stand him in good stead for the heat of the Oman course.

“It’s like Australia here in that the sun is really powerful,” he said. “It’s something that’s very different to the European summer. In Europe the sun isn’t quite as strong, whereas here it burns you properly.”

Froome revealed that his main motivation was to back up his stellar achievements of last year to avoid doubts over his performance in the drug-ridden sport.

“I hope last year’s not going to be a one-off for me because that would raise doubts,” he said. “I want to back up my results for the next five years at least to prove that nothing was a fluke. My results will stand the test of time and I want to erase any doubt about them – that’s a massive motivation.”