Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium > Jebel Hafeet 153.4km
The final stage is here, thank God for that. Each year this race is a grind, the organisers really must start thinking about changing things up. We’ve got sprints with barely a corner in the final 10km, and two mountain stages with just one climb at the end of an easy day. The good weather and fancy hotels will always attract the riders to this part of the world, but from a viewing spectacle, the organisers must do better. Rant over, on with the preview.
Roasting hot, even up the climb.
It’s a tough climb, the steep sections are perfect to separate the best from the rest.
Remco has a 9 second lead over Luke Plapp and 13s to Bilbao, everyone else is over 1 minute down. Even when you factor in the 10s bonus for winning the stage, it’s almost impossible for someone currently out with the top 3 to win the GC. This leaves the stage win wide open, it’s set up for someone over 1 minute down to get some freedom and take the win.
UAE have to be considered the favourites, they have Yates and McNulty as their two options. This is a climb that Adam Yates knows very well, he always goes well here, but when will he attack? Will he go from long distance in the hope of putting Remco under pressure, or does he simply want the stage win and see where he ends up on GC?
Going long is risky, but you don’t know if you never try. Remco is not unbeatable; I think UAE will test him out and see what happens. If they go early, it significantly reduces who could win the stage. If they leave it late, someone could already be up the road. It would be good if Plapp and Bilbao also rode with ambition, but they are likely to lose time to Remco, so I don’t expect any attacking from them. They’ll let Remco try to cover the moves and see if they can hold onto his wheel.
What about the breakaway? QuickStep will have no interest in chasing them down, but I would expect UAE to take control of the move. The flat start isn’t great news for any climbers wanting to try and make the break, and it’s also a risky strategy with UAE looking for the stage win.
Adam Yates – won here in 2020, and since then has been second best to Pogačar. You know he’ll attack, and is likely to drop most of his rivals, but will that include Remco? That’s the big question which needs answered, can he solo to victory and threaten the GC? He’ll start as the favourite to win the stage.
Remco Evenepoel – he’ll fancy his chances of going with Yates, and then we’ll see what he wants to do. He could ride with Yates and secure GC, then allow Yates to win the stage, or he might get greedy and go for both. He’s able to beat Yates in a sprint, but it’s a tricky finish to get right, Yates knows what not to do. His team are strong enough to control the first half of the climb, then Remco will look after himself.
Lucas Plapp – as the stage is basically one big effort, it is possible for a rider like Plapp to challenge the pure climbers. The heat should work in his favour, but when Yates and Remco hit the steep slopes, he’s likely to suffer a little. Instead of fighting for the win, I think he’ll be battling with Bilbao for second place.
Pello Bilbao – I don’t think this type of climb suits him very well. He’s not going to threaten for the win, but can he beat Plapp for second place? I think it’s going to be close between those two.
Sepp Kuss – he goes well on this climb, but normally suffers after trying to follow Yates and Pogačar. Sepp is looking good to me, if he rides a clever race, he could well finish in the top 3 on the stage and move up the GC standings.
Geoffrey Bouchard – the amuse-bouche. Was good on the Green Mountain, 3rd place on the stage and in the GC was a nice return for him. He’s way down on GC, he’ll hope that buys him some freedom.
Alexey Lutsenko – I don’t know what to make of him. He went pop in a big way on the Green Mountain, it’s unlikely he’ll suddenly improve enough to win this stage against the climbers already mentioned.
Louis Meintjes – after riding for others in Oman, the South African should be up there in this stage. He’s one who’ll hope to attack and be allowed a gap, due to his GC position. Winning will be hard, but he’s got the quality to bring it home.
An easy day with one big effort.
That sounds perfect for a certain world champion. A first win in the rainbow jersey for Remco Evenepoel.