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.
Todays’ stage put the riders and their expensive, rapid bikes against the clock. So yeah it was set to be a mundane day on the couch, watching and waiting for one man to roll down the ramp, and indefinitely win. Before we get into the details of the stage the main headline was that Alpecin-Fenix had to withdraw all seven riders from the race. Unfortunately, Mathieu Van Der Poel was forced out of any, far-fetched chance of winning the overall. The reason for their withdrawal was due to a staff member testing positive for Covid-19. A mere 12 months after the UAE tour produced cycling’s first positive cases.
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.