Another scorcher of a day, not least because of the intense rivalry that will undoubtedly be shown on the final 10 km climb, up to Jebel Hafeet. Pogacar was leading overall but by only a handful of seconds, could the reigning Le Tour champion be matched in this final early season test. I say final early season test because it’s FINALLY opening weekend in 4 days’ time. I for sure cannot wait for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Have I mentioned the UAE Tour is a slightly dull affair? Yeah? Well I said it again for good measure.
This stage race, in the heart of the middle east is typically one of a boring nature because of the long, arrow straight, flat roads, of course barring Jebel Hafeet. There are also never many people on the side of the road, which makes me think, ideal for covid right. The UAE Tour is a sprinter’s paradise but cruelly a race they cannot win overall, despite winning the majority of the stages. This year’s edition has drawn the interest of many of the top name sprinters like: Sam Bennett [Deceuninck-Quickstep], Caleb Ewan [Lotto-Soudal], Jasper Philipsen [Alpecin-Fenix] and Giacomo Nizzolo [Qhuebeka-Assos]. So definitely a race where we’ll see more fist bumping from the bromance of Bennett and Ewan, whilst also seeing who – out of this extensive list of sprinters – has had the best preparation this winter. Like all the other early season races it will certainly set the scene for the 2021 season, and what we can expect from each rider.
Day 3 of Tour de la Provence almost didn’t happen after some late night, heavy snowfall. Yet the stage was cleared to go and sees the riders take on a 154km and the professional peloton climb the first summit finish of 2021 on the famous Mont Ventoux, a difficult one to start off with. Prior to the climactic finish lies a rolling, fairly mundane stage where a breakaway escaped. It included a young Florian Vermeesch [Lotto-Soudal]; For the second day in a row, Jerome Cousin [Total-Direct Energie]; his teammate Damien Gaudin [Total-Direct Energie]; Louis Louvet [St Michel – Auber93]; Nicola Bagioli [B&B Hotels p/b KTM] and Alessandro Fedeli [Delko]. The sextet forged on to gain a maximum gap of 3m30s ahead of a chilled peloton, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Today’s affair was another lumpy one, with a length of 175 kilometres. Unlike yesterday, the weather appeared to plummet below the 10 degrees Celsius as the world champion Julian Alaphilippe [Deceuninck-Quickstep] swapped his white rainbow band jersey for a black one with waterproof lining, even the race leader – winner of stage 1 – Davide Ballerini [Deceuninck-Quickstep] attempted to go incognito by swapping the striking multi-coloured jersey for his standard spring wet weather jacket from Vermac Sport. One kit sponsor must find a way to allow for full use of the rain cape without obscuring the numbers as throughout the stage it was apparent the sear number of riders who rolled their jacket up above the pocket line, to show numbers but also reach their pockets. UCI: **Note to self* Sticky Adhesive numbers do not work in rain…