It’s the 5th edition of the UAE Tour and the organisers have decided to change the ITT to a TTT, apart from that, everything looks the same. In theory, the change should mean smaller gaps at the top of the GC, and hopefully an exciting final stage. We’ll have to wait and see if the plan works.
Most of the opening stage takes place in the dessert, so echelons are likely if the wind blows. Last time we had this stage, it split in wind and van der Poel won the sprint from a small group. Same again please.
A very untechnical 17.3km TTT. It’s on the Khalifa, so expect some arty camera shots.
Jebel Jais, the most boring mountaintop finish in cycling. Expect a sprint from the GC riders.
It might take until the fourth stage for the first big sprint.
Sprint number 3.
The final stage and the climb of Jebel Hafeet. Proper hard, hopefully the GC gaps are small before the stage begins and we get a grandstand finish.
Remco Evenepoel – doesn’t have the best team for the TTT, but as it’s only 17km, he can do most of the work himself. After not being at his best in San Juan, Remco will want a much better showing in this race, he’ll like to get his first win in the rainbow jersey. After San Juan he didn’t go to altitude, instead, he’s been training in Calpe. Due to his age, you can’t be certain which version of Remco will appear at this race, he’s not got the same consistency level as someone like Pogačar, not yet anyway. He could well win, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.
Adam Yates – came very close to cracking Pogačar in the last two editions, now he’s joined UAE and will hope to go one better this time round. UAE have a strong looking team for the TTT, this is an important race for them and their sponsors. Yates should be their best option, Jebel Hafeet is an excellent climb for him.
Brandon McNulty – another strong option for UAE. The American hasn’t yet hit top form this season, but it’s coming. One of his goals this year is to try and win a one-week race, this could be a good one for him. The team will likely protect multiple riders, they have a better chance of beating Remco with two options, or maybe even three.
Jay Vine – option number 3 for the UAE boys. He won the TDU in brilliant fashion and was due to head to the Algarve, but it looks like he was brought here when Pogačar decided to start his season in Spain. Vine not only brings climbing power, but he’ll be an important part of the TTT unit. Having three strong options means they can attack early on Jebel Hafeet and try to isolate Evenepoel.
Sepp Kuss – he’s not long back from a period of altitude training in Colombia, I’m expecting him to start the season with a bang. Jumbo-Visma don’t have one of the best squads for the TTT, so winning the overall will be hard, but he should be challenging for a place in the top 5.
Pello Bilbao – it feels like he’s been the busiest rider of 2023. This will be his third stage race of the year; he’s clocking up a lot of race kilometres. Bahrain have brought a couple of big engines to help in the TTT, and after going close in Australia and Valenciana, Bilbao will hope for another podium finish here.
Lucas Plapp – impressed here last year, he’ll be hoping to be challenging for the top 5 on GC. Ineos are likely to go well in the TTT, that will help give Plapp a little buffer to some of the pure climbers.
In what is likely to be a battle between Remco and UAE, I’ll take a win for Adam Yates.
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