March 01, 2019
UAE Tour 2019 – Stage 6 – Ajman – Jebel Jais : 175 km
After running three separate races in recent years, the UAE will host its first national stage race this season.
March 01, 2019
UAE Tour 2019 – Stage 6 – Ajman – Jebel Jais : 175 km
After running three separate races in recent years, the UAE will host its first national stage race this season. The inaugural UAE Tour is the coming together of the previous Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours and features visits to the other five Emirates, including Sharjah – the scene of the country’s other multi-day race.By combining the two events, organiser RCS Sport have been able to expand the event to seven stages and include multiple hilltop finishes that should see the fight for the overall classification spread across the whole week. There are also three opportunities for the sprinters to take a victory. While most of the Classics riders will be back in Europe for the opening weekend in Belgium, the parcours, the weather and the race’s WorldTour status has attracted a wealth of Grand Tour talent and sprinters.
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) all but won the UAE Tour by taking the final mountain stage, nipping Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin at the line atop the Jebel Jais. David Gaudu (Groupama-FdJ) crossed the line as third.
Roglic’s win virtually sealed his overall victory in the race, giving him a lead of 31 seconds, with only one sprint stage left to go. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes into the final stage in second place, with Gaudu third at 44 seconds.
The early part of the stage was marked by several crashes, and a long break group. .The last rider of that group, CCC’s Joey Rosskopf was caught with only 2 km to go. A greatly reduced peloton of some 15 riders rode up to the finish line, with Dumoulin opening the sprint, only to have Roglic catch him at the last second.
“We showed with the whole team how strong we are and I’m really happy I managed to finish it off today,” Roglic said after the finish.
“From the beginning our guys did a perfect job and I was protected all day from the wind. We had a lot of guys for the last climb and Laurens [De Plus] pulled until the last 500 metres. It was really impressive from the whole team.”
The Slovenian rider wasn’t ready to claim the overall victory just yet though.
“The race is done for today but tomorrow is a new day. We just have to stay focused until the finish.”
A nervous wait for the mountain showdown
The 175km stage started with the usual battle to get into the break group but it was quickly overshadowed by a large crash in the peloton that indicated there was real tension on the decisive stage of the UAE Tour.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was amongst those caught up in the crash and he had to wait for bike repairs, giving him a nearly two-minute deficit to make up. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) had been held up by the crash and was in another of the many groups scurrying to catch the peloton again. Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) was alone up front, slowly building up a gap as behind him the various groups all re-joined the slow-moving peloton.
With everyone back in, the pace picked up, with more riders looking to break away. Novo Nordisk, who had been in every break group so far, was the most active. But as Hansen pulled away and built up a gap of over two minutes, they calmed down again.
Hansen took the most points at the intermediate sprint, and a group of seven, including Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took off to grab the remaining points, with the gap to the front opening to 30 seconds. They soon caught the Australian and began to work together.
The group of Hansen, Viviani, Marcel Sieberg (Bahrain Merida), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida), Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team), Will Clarke (Trek-Segafredo), Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) and Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick Step) was allowed to go clear and the gap was soon up to four minutes. The break was a threat and so the pace stayed high, touching 45km/h for the opening two hours. A strong side wind saw Jumbo-Visma put the rest of the peloton into the gutter as payback for not helping with the chase.
Viviani took the top points in an uncontested second intermediate sprint with 100km to go. He and teammate Markov then pulled over to the side of the road for an apparent nature break ad to wait for the peloton, which was five minutes back.
With about 90km to go, a crash near the front of the field brought down a handful of riders and split the peloton. The peloton eased and so the gap went up over six minutes while everything came back together behind them. That gap kept on growing, hitting the nine-minute mark with about 60km left to go. The break seemed to have a chance of victory. That was enough for Team Sunweb and Movistar to send a man up to help Jumbo-Visma with the lead work, and the gap slowly dropped towards eight minutes.
The gap continued to drop, as more teams joined in the chase, and when the climb started with 20 km to go, it was down to under five minutes. The breakaway immediately started falling apart, with Sieberg the first to go after his dug deep to help teammate Tratnik.
Jumbo-Visma take control
The peloton too started rapidly declining as it started up the 20km climb. As the road went up, the gap came down and with 12km to go, the lead group was down to three and Tratnik suddenly took off, leaving Rosskopf and Clarke to chase and catch him. The peloton was at 2:25 and moving around four kilometres per hour faster on the steady gradient.
Rosskopf and Clarke got back up to Tratnik but then Clarke had to finally let the other two go, Tratnik soon cracked too, leaving Rosskopf to chase victory alone. Behind him, all the favourites were still in the surprisingly large field, with Tony Martin put in much hard work pulling the peloton up the mountain into the headwind. When the pace increased, and the size of the field decreased, spitting riders out of the group one by one. The sprinters had already formed a gruppetto and would finish 20 behind down.
With 8.4km to the top, Rosskopf had one minute on the field and knew it would not be enough as Laurens De Plus took over from Martin and keep the speed high. The catch was made with 2.2km to go but surprisingly there were no real attacks. De Plus’ pace and knowledge that there was a headwind at the finish deterred the brave. Valverde was not at his best and few others had the legs or possibility of taking the race lead from Roglic. The focus turned to winning the stage.
De Plus lead his captain Roglic into the final kilometre as Nibali was dropped, leaving just 20 riders up front.
As the final curves of the climb began, Dan Martin jumped first, kicking off the battle for the stage victory. Then Dumoulin opened the sprint with 200 metres to go. The Dutchman looked to have his team’s first win of the season but Roglic moved Kelderman out of the way to go after him and had the legs to beat him at the line and reward his Jumbo-Visma teammates with another stage win.
Their celebrations of overall victory will begin after Saturday’s flat stage around the streets of Dubai.
General Classification after Stage 6 :