Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) secured his first victory of the new season atop UAE’s highest climb Jebel Jais on stage 4 of the UAE Tour. Pogačar outsprinted a handful of riders to take the stage ahead of Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The gaps were minimal but with an additional ten-second bonus Pogačar narrowly scooped up the general classical lead from Ineos Grenadiers rider Filippo Ganna who finished second behind Stefan Bissengger in the stage 3 time trial.
Going into the final three stages Pogačar is still the favourite to take the overall title, especially with Jebel Hafeet closing up the race. The final climb that will decide the winner is similar to the climb tackled in stage 4, 10.9 km in length but only 6.8% average grade. Unlike Jebel Jais, the steepest parts are in the beginning and middle, with the top gradually flattening out.
The final climb on stage 4 wasn’t steep enough to shell Ganna and a handful of other non-climbers. Pogačar looked confident throughout the climb and his team, especially Rafal Majka, was active in the final six kilometres to both break apart the group and keep it together.
Throughout the final kilometres the front group split apart and came back together, and who’s to say if it was due to team tactics or just confusion. The climb itself was fast, averaging out at 5.7% there were plenty of places to hide and plenty of riders were able to stay in touch with the race.
The only time some pure climbers could get away from the larger remaining peloton was in the final 2.5 km of the race. The breakaway group included Yates and Australian national champion Luke Plapp of the Ineos Grenadiers and Pogačar, although he was isolated. They didn’t work well together and there were no real attacks from his competitors so Pogačar was able to just kind of hang out in the split.
Interestingly, UAE Team Emirates was the team to close the gap and bring Ganna back into the picture before the steepest section of the climb. With Ganna back in the front group confusion kicked in when Plapp continuously attacked before the final 200 meters. With his team leader barely hanging on to the lead group and known for long steady efforts, a smooth ride would have made all the difference for Ganna. The UAE Tour marks Plapp’s WorldTour debut and debut race with his Ineos Grenadiers teammates so while the tactics may not have worked out in Plapp’s favour his performance was still notable.
Ganna ended up finishing 11th on the stage, part of a group that lost three seconds to the top three finishers.
Three stages stand between Pogačar and a repeat overall victory at the UAE Tour, and Ganna sits a cool two seconds behind the Tour de France winner.