Fujairah Fort > Jebel Jais 180.7km
The fourth stage is the first of the mountaintop finishes, it’s time for the sprinters to move to the side. Like the other stages in the race, it’s a very boring day for everyone, until the final 10km.
Nice and sunny, the wind will be around 10km/h. There is a crosswind section from km100 until km135, but the wind shouldn’t be strong enough to cause any echelons.
Long and steady. The wide roads always makes the climb easier for the riders, staying hidden in the bunch provides a massive assistance. The early slopes contain a lot of hairpin bends, so it’s a mixture of headwind and tailwind. From 8km to go, it’s mainly a tailwind, before headwind in the final kilometre. There seems to be a lot less headwind than in previous year.
With the gradients involved, this stage is very likely to end in a sprint. Okay, last year Vingegaard won with a late attack, but the GC was already settled. As this stage is the first of the MTFs, it’s another reason why it’s likely to be held together. UAE are the team who will take control, they have the two fastest finishing climbers.
One slight issue is the number of climbing domestiques they have. Bjerg can do a lot of the early donkey work on the climb, then it’s over to Majka and Bennett. As the climb is 20km, that isn’t enough men to control the whole way. Will Almeida be asked to do domestique work? Given the race, I don’t think he’ll have a problem with that.
None of the other GC teams have the climbing depth of UAE. Yes, some of them have two options for the finale, but they won’t be looking to control the climb. A team like Bahrain will likely wait until the final 2km and look to attack with Mäder, saving Bilbao for the sprint. I doubt we’re going to see an exciting climb.
Tadej Pogačar – the defending champion starts as the overwhelming favourite to take the win. His TT showed that his current shape is good, despite a recent bout of COVID. Given the gradient of the finish, his sprint will likely be the fastest of all the contenders. Will UAE ride for this outcome? Will they send Almeida on the attack? Whatever happens, Pogačar will be there, and the victory is likely to be his.
João Almeida – a great second option for UAE. Just like Pogačar, he also delivered a good TT. Of the two mountain stages, this is the one which suits him best. The problem is that Pogačar is likely to be the team’s best option for the win. He might be allowed to attack in the closing kilometres, forcing the other leaders into chasing, setting up Pogačar for the win.
Aleksandr Vlasov – 8th in the TT was a brilliant result for the Russian. He knows his form is good, his win in Valenciana was outstanding. I get the feeling he’s the rider UAE will be a little worried about, the good news for them is that he doesn’t have the best sprint. For Vlasov to win, he needs to drop Pogačar and Almeida. Good luck with that.
Adam Yates – couldn’t beat Pogačar last year, but 2022 isn’t 2021. The issue for Yates is the climb, he could do with it being harder. His sprint isn’t good enough to beat the UAE boys, so he needs to drop them. Doing that on a 5% gradient is almost impossible.
Pello Bilbao – should really be challenging for the podium. The Basque rider has a very fast sprint, I remember the days of him contesting reduced sprints in his Caja-Rural days. Top 5 is a real possibility.
Romain Bardet – I’m enjoying his spell with DSM, he seems to be back to his old self. The problem is that attacking on this climb is a suicide mission, he should wait in the wheels and try to avoid any gaps.
Tom Dumoulin – if anyone will roll the dice with a long-range attack, I think Tom’s the man. 3rd in today’s TT was clearly an excellent result, the big man has some form. He was 2nd here back in 2019, this is a climb that suits him well. With Bouwman and Harper to support, the big Dutch climber has a good chance of taking it to the UAE boys.
It’ll be a sprint and Tadej Pogačar will take the win.