Stage 6 brought us another sprint, after Stage 5’s uphill march to Jebel Jais. Apologies for no report on this one but, with the work at home, and a relatively casual affair up the slopes, the only news really from that day was that Tadej Pogacar retained the lead over Adam Yates, by finishing on the same time in a larger than normal bunch at the top of a mountain finish. Clearly it was ridden conservatively.
Today, 165km lay ahead of the riders, and without a hill in sight. It was most definitely going to be a bunch kick for the line on the famous man-made palms of Dubai. Curves left and right would mean teams and riders have to carefully select their lines to have the best chance of being on the quickest route to victory. There was a brief moment of crosswinds early on but unlike stage 1 where nearly all the major sprinters missed out on the key move, nearly all of them had made it this time.
The insignificant break, which only ever had 50 or so seconds over the peloton was caught with just over 20 km to go. Naturally on the front was Ineos-Grenadiers, Deceuninck-Quickstep, and UAE Team-Emirates all with their own unique goals for the stage. The teams were lining up in formation ready for a nasty little switch-back, under a train-bridge. The road went from 4 lanes down to 2 under the bridge and then back out to 4 lanes. Thankfully all the main players for the win got through unscathed. Unfortunately for Elia Viviani [Cofidis] his lead-out man Fabio Sabatini crashed on the left tall kerb, synonymous with the Middle-East. Cast your minds back to 2013 and Sagan’s prance over the central reservation. Would that cost the Italian the win? Maybe but we’re still 5 km away from the finish.
5km to go then, and out of the dark of the tunnel and into the light of day. We are blessed with a ding dong battle between two time trial specialists in their respective lead outs… Alex Dowsett [Israel Start-up Nation] working for “The Gorilla” Andre Greipel, versus Filippo Ganna [Ineos-Grenadiers] working to keep Adam Yates out of trouble in the front portion of the peloton. Tension rising, screams getting louder (maybe just cause of the echo effect of said tunnel).
2.2 km until arrival, and we witnessed two out of place teams on the front, Team Bike-Exchange and Team DSM. We’re not yet accustomed to seeing these two on the front but they were most definitely controlling things in a dominant fashion. Would it be perfectly timed to put Kaden Groves and Cees Bol in the best position possible? The answer, no it wouldn’t. Groves would be left without teammates with 1000m remaining, whilst DSM were swamped long before 1.5km to go.
Eyes were searching and scanning for the navy-blue of Deceuninck and if their formidable lead-out man Michael Morkov could once again perfectly place Bennett to claim the win. A close moment to disaster for the Dutchman David Dekker, who was fighting a miniscule Caleb Ewan [Lotto-Soudal] in comparison. But they all stayed up right after that bump and barging. Bennett once again with 500m to go appeared best placed out of all the protagonists, and would surely launch on the right-hand side of the road [rider’s perspective] out of the wind, forcing anyone who dared challenge him to come the long way round. But no one could touch the inform Irishman as he produced the goods in yet another display of poise and prowess. This victory couldn’t be possible without the help of Michael Morkov, the tactical genius in navigating the professional peloton. Fantastique.
1st Sam Bennett [Deceuninck-Quickstep]
2nd Elia Viviani [Cofidis] I hope he’s not pushing too quickly following his heart surgery only a mere few weeks ago
3rd Pascal Ackermann [Bora-Hansgrohe]
4th David Dekker [Jumbo-Visma] 5th Fernando Gaviria [UAE Team Emirates] 6th Giacomo Nizzolo [Qhuebeka-Assos] 7th Kaden Groves [Team Bike-Exchange] 8th André Greipel [Israel Start-Up Nation] 9th Cees Bol [Team-DSM] 10th Michael Morkov [Deceuninck-Quickstep]