UAE Tour Stage 2 Preview
In what was a controlled stage and the comeback of Chris Froome to the peloton, the expectations of a sprint finish were fullfiled, after Mitchelton led it out for Mezgec Pascal Ackermann flew across and the first rider to sprint and held his own to take a great win, as it was predicted. Caleb Ewan and Rudy Barbier completed the podium.
Positive: Ackermann dealing the first blow to the sprinter Top5 present in the race. Barbier with another great result, another one to a strong season already, Rojas and Vendrame surprises in the Top10.
Negative: Démare and Bennett had their leadout leading in the flamme rouge, however both weren't even present in the Top10, Gaviria aswell after he was blocked by Morkov.
Stage 2 is a lumpy affair, with 2800 meters of climbing in the wide and steep roads of the UAE hills it's not a surprise to see this stage back as the Hatta dam has become an inconic finish not just of the rac but I'd say of the season. Despite being hilly the sprinters usually make it through, there's some rough patches with a little over 10Km to go that will make life hard for everyone but the leadout to the final climb is usually mad.
And it's a place where sprinters, climber and puncheurs all have almost the same odds of taking the win. The stage ends on those brutal 20% ramps but it's so short that it ends up balancing the riders' chances, bonifications can be important for the GC riders, and the same can be said for little splits.
A small wind coming from the east, nothing much, weather will be nice and warm, perhaps a little too much.
It's a tricky stage, over the years we've seen in every edition a win by a punchy sprinter, in fact it is always the case to have the winner coming from the peloton, and then it's a case of positioning and form essentially, climbers and puncheurs have their saying too, gaps and bonifications matter a lot aswell so everyone is looking to be in front. So which sprinters will be suited to the finish?
Well Caleb Ewan won last year, safe to say he is one to consider since his lightweight build is ideal for these steep gradients yet he has the pure power of a sprinter. From the other sprinters in the Top5 I've mentioned previously, maybe Sam Bennett can be there in the end, he's shown to climb very well at his best, wether he can sprint up these grades is unsure but he definetely looks better than some others, Groenewegen/Ackermann are too heavy and Gaviria hasn't shown in the last years to deal well with climbing. Lotto have Tosh van der Sande as a second option as he does very well in these finales too, and seeing a great sprint today I could also mention Andrea Vendrame as a conteder, although I'm not sure if calling him a sprinter is very accurate, he's more of a puncheur who can climb mountains aswell, fitting.
In the puncheur field Alexey Lutsenko (again, maybe a climber?) is a brilliant pick for tomorrow, he has a strong sprint and is a super rider in hard gradient climbs, there's Diego Ulissi but he may not be the team's option, but as it's a sprint and things can get messy, the Italian can definetely get his shot tomorrow. Jesus Herrada, Eddie Dunbar, and I'll say it, Alejandro Valverde are also names to consider tomorrow, all very explosive and fitting for finales like this. Now, I'm aware most of these names are more considered climbers, but they are all very punchy and usually deal well outside of the high mountain.
Because in the actual climber field there are names with different characteristics to consider, Tadej Pogacar for once, last year Roglic finished right there in third so it's perfectly viable to see the climbers netting time, and who better than this other Slovenian talent, who's explosive and well just an all-round great climber. Wilco Kelderman, David Gaudu, Adam Yates, Patrick Konrad, god knows what they can do tomorrow as all are very explosive and could legitimately take a surprise win tomorrow, as I've mentioned their positioning ability and tactics may be the decisive factor, but if they play their cards well they can very well take big profit from it.
⭐ Vendrame, Kelderman, Gaudu, A.Yates, Dunbar
I'll go for it again. He did it last year, why couldn't he do it again? Actually Ewan last year showed to be stronger than ever, and his unique built within the world's top sprinters gives him an undeniable advantage in this finish. It's one of the most unique finishes in pro cycling and happens to be one designed for him very well.
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