Chris Froome put his stamp on the Tour of Oman as he rode to an emphatic victory on stage five to claim the race lead.
The Brit took a significant step towards defending the title he won in 2013 by powering clear on the famed summit finish, distancing rivals Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) to pull on the red jersey.
The 147.5-kilometre test was always going to be a crucial stage in the fight for the general classification, and so it proved with Froome carving out a 26-second lead with just one stage remaining.
All eyes had been on the locally-named Jabal Al Akhdhar with a break of four riders reeled in after Cannondale and Katusha had took up the early pace-setting.
From there it was all about Team Sky and after the stage a happy Froome talked us through the victory and praised the support he received from his team-mates.
He told us: “It feels absolutely fantastic getting that win today, especially with it being my first race of the season. Coming into the race I wasn’t sure exactly where my form was but this has proved I’m where I need to be right now.
“I know I say it a lot but the team were phenomenal today. Danny [Pate] and Ben [Swift] set a really good pace up to the base of the climb, and then once we hit it, we set up the train to perfection.
"David [Lopez] did a massive pull on the first really steep section which did a lot of damage, and when he pulled over Mikel [Nieve] carried on where he’d left off.
“That set Sergio [Henao] up for a pre-planned attack with about 2km to go when the climb ramped up again, and that meant I could sit on the wheels and conserve my energy.
"Robert Gesink and Tejay [van Garderen] were forced to go after him, and the second they’d made the catch, I made my move with about 1.5km to go.
“I could see Rigo chasing me for a while, and obviously Tejay again, but I was pleased with the amount of time I was able to put into them.
“I’m really, really happy to be back in the leader’s jersey. We came into this race with much less stress than previously, and no massive expectations, but to be able to do what we’ve done here today is fantastic and it all bodes well for the season to come.”
After his stinging attack Henao completed a strong day for the team with ninth on the stage, a result that elevated the Colombian to seventh overall.