Tadej Pogačar wins stage 7 of the 2022 UAE Tour, wrapping up overall victory for the second consecutive year.

Bad news for the rest of the peloton as Pogačar’s Achilles’ heel is fixed 

UAE Team Emirates raced a textbook finale up Jebel Hafeet to help Tadej Pogačar to a third consecutive victory at their home race.

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Tadej Pogačar is all but unmatched as far as GC riders are concerned, but he’s not known for his reliance on team support. In fact, the comparative weakness of his team has often been considered his Achilles’ heel. However, if the whole team’s performance at the UAE Tour is anything to go on, particularly on the climbs, Pogačar’s one weakness may have finally been neutralised.

At the UAE Tour, the Jebel Hafeet has a similar significance to the likes of the Mur de Bretagne or the Roubaix Velodrome, in that it has become a customary final showdown for the race’s main contenders. At 10.9 km up to 1030 metres, with an average of 6.8% and max. 11% it’s not a super tough climb, but both the interminable desert heat and the enthusiasm of the peloton’s ascent have the potential to expose any early-season cracks. 

Not for Pogačar though, whose stage 7 victory marks his third consecutive conquest of the mountain.

As the last climb of the race, and coming at the end of a pan-flat 137.5 km run-up to the foot of the climb, there is little doubt that Pogačar could have done the job on his own – and maybe even have won by more – but control, and perhaps a rehearsal for later goals, was the order of the day.

UAE Team Emirates allowed Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) to lead the bunch on the lower slopes, working for Aleksandr Vlasov and perhaps Jai Hindley. Then the minute the Austrian champion pulled off the front, Rafał Majka made the team’s first move from a few wheels back.

Majka’s acceleration forced his leader’s main rival Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) – the only rider to have beaten Pogačar on Jebel Hafeet, on stage 3 in 2020 – to put his last remaining lieutenant to work, and as soon as Luke Plapp, a revelation in this race, dragged the GC group up to the Polish climber, Pogačar’s men seized complete control.

George Bennett sets the pace for race leader and new teammate Tadej Pogačar on the lower half of Jebel Hafeet. Fellow UAE Team Emirates newcomer João Almeida is embedded further back in the pack and would move up in a km or two…

Newcomer George Bennett took over pacing duties with Pogačar on his wheel, Majka slipping back into sweeper position, and João Almeida moving up to the join his teammates at the front. It was still a sizeable group that arrived on Jebel Hafeet’s toughest gradients, but the efforts of a dominant UAE Team Emirates was steadily dropping riders out the back.

With three teammates to lean on, Pogačar looked incredibly comfortable as he kept a watchful eye on his rivals. The Tour de France champion asked his own questions with about four kilometres left to race, accelerating off the front with a look over his shoulder to measure the response. Yates reacted fast and, satisfied with his answer, Pogačar dropped back into formation with a smile.

It was now up to Yates to show his hand; with Plapp clinging onto the back of the now very small group, it was Yates against the world, so he had to try and isolate Pogačar. His moment came just outside 3 km to go, and, inevitably, Pogačar was straight onto his wheel.

From the group behind, Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious) was trying to bridge, but he had baggage in the form of Pogačar’s new teammate Almeida, who was looking after his leader’s white jersey. Clearly, the Portuguese all-rounder would be only too happy to let Bilbao do all the work, and if they did make it up to the leading duo, the home team would once again have the upper hand.

Almeida, Adam Yates, Pogačar and Bilbao head for the flamme rouge.

The Brit landed his next desperate blow under the flamme rouge. His attack finally put an end to a weary Bilbao – good job, Almeida – but Pogačar was unshakeable, and Yates was forced into leading out the defending champion who celebrated a second stage win of the week, as well as overall victory.

Bilbao reached the front as the road began to level out a little. Rather than hold the wheel and take a breath, he tried to go straight over the top of the favourites, but it came to very little. Almeida then came through with a similar move to up the pace. A necessary acceleration from Yates came to nothing, and the quartet stalled a little on the approach to the finale.

With their textbook demonstration on Jebel Hafeet, a very similar effort on stage 4’s Jebel Jais – same top-two result – and strong rides from the whole team on the flat, UAE Team Emirates has without doubt been the very best all-round squad at the UAE Tour, proven by their dominance of the team classification. Meanwhile, Tour mountain domestique Brandon McNulty is continuing his run of great form over in Europe, soloing to victory at Saturday’s Faun-Ardèche Classic.

Just how UAE Team Emirates will compare to the likes of Jumbo-Visma’s stage racing toolkit remains to be seen, but it looks like Pogačar will have more support than ever this season.

UAE Tour (2.UWT) Al Ain → Jebel Hafeet

POGAČAR Tadej
1
POGAČAR Tadej UAE Team Emirates
2
YATES Adam INEOS Grenadiers
3
BILBAO Pello Bahrain - Victorious
4
ALMEIDA João UAE Team Emirates
5
PLAPP Luke INEOS Grenadiers
6
VERONA Carlos Movistar Team
7
MAJKA Rafał UAE Team Emirates
8
VLASOV Aleksandr BORA - hansgrohe
9
BOUCHARD Geoffrey AG2R Citroën Team
10
HARPER Chris Jumbo-Visma

POGAČAR Tadej

PHILIPSEN Jasper

POGAČAR Tadej

UAE Team Emirates

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