Umbrella Beach Al Fujairah > Jebel Jais 184.9km
The first of the mountain stages, but don’t get too excited, it’s Jebel Jais. Not the best climb in the world for those watching, the steady gradient normally means we get a sprint finish.
Another day with lots of sunshine. The wind starts around 20km/h but decreases in strength throughout the stage. Echelons are unlikely.
It’s a long climb, but the wide road, nice surface and gradient make it straightforward for the best climbers.
Will we see a different climb to previous years? That is very unlikely, as quite a few domestiques will survive to the end, meaning teams have riders to chase down attacks and set up a sprint finish, but UAE are bound to try something.
They need to take time back on GC, but this stage isn’t ideal to do so. That doesn’t mean they won’t try, just that it’s unlikely to succeed. Soler and Vine can be used to set a fast pace on the climb and try to drop as many riders as possible, leaving McNulty and Yates for the finale. Neither will get freedom from the other GC riders, they’re far too good for that, but they could try the old 1-2 in the final kilometre.
With lots of climbers out of the GC picture, we should see attacks on the final climb, there could be a different dynamic compared to previous years. The problem for these riders is that UAE, QuickStep, and Bahrain will all fancy this stage, they’ll all believe they can take the win.
Yes, there will be more attacks compared to previous years, but the stage is still destined to end in a GC sprint.
Remco Evenepoel – usually loves a steady climb, this is a stage where he’ll hope to gain more time on his rivals. QuickStep have a team who can support him deep into the finale, Vervaeke and Schmid should go all the way. Remco has worked on his finishing speed, we saw that at the Vuelta, but he’s still a little unproven in terms of winning a GC sprint like this. What the opening stage showed was how strong he is just now.
Adam Yates – you might think he doesn’t have much of a sprint, but that’s not true in this finish. Yates was 2ndto Pogačar last year, and they finished 2nd and 3rd the year before, when Vingegaard won with a late attack. Sprinting after a long climb is totally different to sprinting when fresh, Yates will back himself to beat those in this race. Will UAE ride for this scenario? I’m not too sure about that, I think McNulty will also have some freedom.
Pello Bilbao – I’ve mentioned in previous previews that Bilbao rarely wins uphill sprints. Despite having an excellent sprint on the flat, he doesn’t seem to have the explosive kick required to gap the best in an uphill finish. Last year, he finished 10th in this stage, that’s not a great sign. When the others launch their sprint, he often takes a moment to get on top of his gear, and the chance is gone. I’m not sure if it’s a gearing issue but sorting it out would allow him to win more stages.
Lucas Plapp – climbs well, but I still wouldn’t classify him as a mountain climber. Last year he was 20th, but this time round he’ll be the main man for Ineos. Going in his favour is his never say die attitude, the boy just doesn’t know when he’s beaten. Winning is unlikely, he’ll be happy to finish on the same time as the best.
Tom Gloag – 2nd behind Geoghegan Hart in the uphill sprint in Valenciana, that should give him confidence for this stage. The level in Spain was high, but it’s much higher here, it’s a good chance for him to compare himself to some of the best climbers in the world. A podium finish wouldn’t be a surprise to me.
Brandon McNulty – his season hasn’t ignited yet, but it’s only a matter of time. He could end up riding for Yates, but I hope he’s allowed to attack in the final 2km. He’s got the power to hold off the chasing bunch.
Now that Pogačar isn’t here to beat him, I’ll take a sprint win for Adam Yates.
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