Jasper Philipsen took his second victory of the week at the UAE Tour on Thursday after the Alpecin-Fenix rider outsprinted Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win the 182km fifth stage from Ras al Khaimah Corniche to Al Marjan Island.
It was a good day, too, for Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) despite suffering a late scare in the finale. Having made the front group after echelons had formed, the young Slovenian was able to challenge the intermediate sprint where there were bonus seconds up for grabs. While Philipsen took first spot, Pogacar was second giving him a 2sec time bonus which later saw him extend his lead over Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers).
A late puncture for Pogacar almost cost him dear when he lost contact with the peloton following a slow bike change. The two-time Tour de France winner, however, remained calm and was guided back by team-mates before crossing the line in the main group and keep hold of his leader’s red jersey.
“I had a puncture today but I didn’t panic, it happens sometimes,” Pogacar said. “The team was perfect and I was not stressed at all. Alpecin-Fenix were attacking for the stage and the team was present at every attack.
“I saw the opportunity to take some seconds in the intermediate sprint and took it. You always need to be careful with echelons in cycling but here in the UAE you can move up if you’re strong because of the big roads.”
The UAE Tour continues on Friday with another stage that is expected to favour the sprinters, while the seven-day race concludes on Saturday with its second uphill finish.
Stage four: Pogacar passes first mountain test of season in style
Wednesday February 23 – Fujairah Fort to Jebel Jais, 181km
Tadej Pogacar passed the first mountain test of his season with flying colours as the defending champion won stage four with a commanding performance on the Jebel Jais climb at the UAE Tour on Wednesday.
Pogacar’s team took control of the stage around 14km from the summit of the 18km-long drag up Jebel Jais, setting a fact pace in an effort to whittle down the bunch and shed some of the Slovenian’s rivals. While a handful of sprinters struggled, the bulk of the general classification contenders held on, though Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) was eventually distanced.
Following a flurry of attacks in the final few kilometres – including a late charge from Australian national champion Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) – the main protagonists for the stage win and the overall race, remained wheel-to-wheel. Once within sight of the line, however, Pogacar came from behind before opening up his sprint and easing to the stage win in what is his first race of the season after the two-time Tour de France winner contracted Covid earlier this month.
Pogacar finished the 181km stage from Fujairah Fort to Jebel Jais ahead of Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) with the in-form Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) third, a result that will see Pogacar take a 2sec lead over Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) into Thursday’s fifth stage.
“It feels amazing to win,” Pogacar said. “It was a hard finale but the team work was super strong today. It was a fast climb with a lot of climbers attacking left and right.
“Despite all the attacks that followed one another uphill, I saw that practically all the big names of the race remained in the leading group, so I checked that we reached the final with the compact group, since I knew it would not be possible to go solo I decided to wait for the sprint.”
Deignan pregnant with second child – but Trek-Segafredo pledge support with two-year contract extension
Lizzie Deignan will miss the entire 2022 road season and the long-awaited return of a women’s edition of the Tour de France after the British cyclist announced she is pregnant.
Deignan, 33, is expecting a second child in September with husband Philip, himself a former professional cyclist, following the birth of their first child Orla in 2018.
“Phil and I are delighted to let everyone know that we are expecting our second child in September,” Deignan said in a statement. “Obviously having a baby is a big decision, but it wasn’t a difficult one for us. I feel like I am established and able in my career to make the next step to have another child, and everything behind the scenes fell into place.”
Having initially signed the Briton during her first pregnancy, US team Trek-Segafredo have again pledged to support Deignan while she unable to compete. Despite missing the upcoming WorldTour season, which gets under way at Strade Bianche on March 5, Trek-Segafredo have handed the former world champion a two-year contract extension that will run through to the end of the 2024 season.
“It’s been quite an emotional experience, actually,” Deignan said. “Talking with Trek and telling them about my pregnancy, they gave me their complete support. I first told Ina[-Yoko Teutenberg], my sports director, and her immediate response was ‘That’s f—— awesome, congratulations!’ That took me back, really. It meant so much to me personally to have that support. I’m a professional athlete in a professional cycling team, but the support feels very personal and I’m incredibly grateful.”
Since returning to the sport following the birth of her first child, Deignan has continued to compete at the highest level of the sport winning the Women’s Tour, La Course by Le Tour de France, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the inaugural women’s Paris-Roubaix in October last year.
“I feel like I still have plenty to give from an athletic standpoint,” she added. “For me, it was always obvious that if we were able to have another baby then I would still return to cycling. I never expected to continue my career through not just one, but two pregnancies, but actually there’s been so many examples now of successful women returning to the sport, and especially older women returning to the sport. I don’t think the same stereotype of athletes retiring at 30 in their prime is necessarily true anymore.
“I think it’s really important that women don’t see the fact that they want to become a mother as a limiting factor in their career. Becoming a mum has always been a dream of mine as well as being a professional athlete. To be able to combine the two has made me very proud. I do feel very passionate about advocating for other women to do the same. Ultimately, it’s part of a lot of women’s lives and it should be celebrated and encouraged and supported. With a flexible approach from a team, sponsors and those around you, anything is possible. I really believe that a happy athlete is a better athlete.”
Trek-Segafredo’s ongoing support of Deignan follows their pledge in 2021 that their women’s team would receive equal prize money to that earned by their male counterparts – money that is ordinarily paid by race organisers. Other than Flanders Classics, who this week announced that riders in the women’s edition of the Tour of Flanders would receive parity with the men as part of their ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative, and the Women’s Tour in the UK, the prize money offered by race organisers in women’s cycling remains derisory.
Deignan added that while she would be ‘envious’ of those competing in the returning women’s Tour de France, she was content with her decision. “I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time to have a baby. Just like there’s never a perfect time to retire or to have an injury,” she said. “There’s so many things in sport that might make you miss an event, and for me it’s the Tour de France Femmes and the Commonwealth Games this year. Next year it could be the first ever women’s Milan-Sanremo, and that would be an amazing thing to take part in. I’m able to see past what I’ll miss. I’ll be there watching the girls and I’ll be right behind them. I know I’ll be envious at some points too, but it’s worth it.”el like we can manage more, and we actually enjoy that.”
Stage three: Bissegger beats Ganna to take lead
Tuesday February 22 – Ajman to Ajman, 9km
Stefan Bissegger produced a superb ride in Tuesday’s time trial, the EF Education-EasyPost rider finishing the nine-kilometre course 7sec faster than world champion Filippo Ganna to become new race leader.
“I had a really good time trial today. I was pretty confident that I had good power and could do a good time,” the Swiss said. It was the fifth victory of Bissegger’s career and the third at WorldTour level, while Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) saw his winning sequence of time trials come to an abrupt halt. Former world time trial champion Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) finished third, 14sec off the pace.
Defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was fourth at 18sec, a result that saw the Slovenian move up to fifth on general classification, while Britain’s Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), runner-up to Pogacar in 2021, moved up to 10th overall after finishing 12th, 29sec behind Bissegger.
The Swiss, who will wear a WorldTour leader’s jersey for the second time of his career after taking yellow at Paris-Nice for a single stage last year, said he was relieved to have rediscovered his form after a ‘rough winter’. “You never know in time trials how good your opponents are until the end though,” he said. “I’m happy to race here as I had a rough winter recovering from a broken bone. For the moment I’m the leader in the GC [general classification], we’ll see about tomorrow.”
Stage two: Cavendish blows away rivals
Monday February 21 – Hudayriyat Island to Abu Dhabi Breakwater, 173km
Mark Cavendish laid down an early-season marker on Monday when the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider sprinted to victory at the end of the 173-kilometre second stage of the UAE Tour in Abu Dhabi.
After missing out on the chance to sprint for victory on Sunday, the Briton took his first win on only the second day of the WorldTour season – and second of the year – as the race for Tour de France slots within the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl squad heats up.
Despite having won four stages at last year’s Tour de France, it has been reported in the Belgian media that Fabio Jakobsen, who has already won four races this year, is the favoured sprinter of general manager Patrick Lefevre with the Dutchman pencilled in for a slot at the world’s biggest bike race. However, with a world-class field of sprinters on show at the UAE Tour, Cavendish’s impressive win will have come as a huge boost.
On a day that was dominated by strong winds, that led to the riders almost coming to a standstill as they were battered by waves of sand, it was perhaps fitting that the stage was won by one of the shortest sprinters – and most aerodynamic – in the peloton. Hitting out from some distance out, the 36-year-old overhauled former team-mate Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) before edging into the lead. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) countered, but was unable to match Cavendish, who held on all the way to the line where he took the win by half a wheel.
“I knew I was capable of getting more wins, and this victory, my first World Tour one of the year, gives me a lot of confidence not just for the remaining stages of the UAE Tour, but also for the next races,” Cavendish said. “I want to thank the team for their work today. We have a young squad here, with two neo-pros, but we all believe in each other, and all the guys did a great job in bringing me to the finish as fresh as possible.
“It was again very hectic, but we remained calm, and feeling that good allowed me to launch my sprint from 250 metres to go, despite the headwind. I had the energy to maintain my sprint all the way to the line and I’m happy with the way things went for us today.”
Stage one: Philipsen triumphs after hectic finale
Sunday February 20 – Madinat Zayed to Madinat Zayed, 184km
Jasper Philipsen claimed the first WorldTour race of the season at the UAE Tour on Sunday when the Alpecin-Fenix rider won a fiercely contested sprint ahead of Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers)
Other than a five-man breakaway that was reined in just under 20 kilometres from the end of the 184km stage that started and finished in Madinat Zayed, and a small crash in the peloton that resulted in Rick Zabel (Israel-Premier Tech) hitting the deck, it was a largely uneventful day of racing. Uneventful, that is, until the pace ratcheted up and the sprinters came to the fore.
With a packed field of world-class sprinters at the UAE Tour, it will have surprised few to see Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl riding on the front in the final kilometres in an effort to guide Mark Cavendish towards his second win of the year – the Briton took a stage at this month’s Tour of Oman. The Belgian squad, however, eased off the pace allowing BikeExchange-Jayco to replace them at the tip of an arrow-head formation.
As the packed bunch neared the line Dylan Groenewegen, who joined BikeExchange-Jayco from Jumbo-Visma during the close window, appeared to be in the boxseat for the stage win. But the Dutchman’s lead-out train uncoupled itself in what turned out to be a frenetic finale.
Cavendish, who sounded relaxed in an interview with Eurosport ahead of the stage, appeared to lose half a pedal stroke as he looked to get crowded out the final metres as he was slightly nudged off course, while Groenewegen found himself squeezed towards the right-hand barrier by Philipsen who held on to take the victory in his first outing of the year.