Filippo Ganna is no longer invincible on short and flat time-trials. The young Swiss rider, Stefan Bissegger overthrew the World Champion after an impressive ride, winning his fourth World-Tour stage in 11 months. The UAE Tour Stage 3 was a 9 kilometre flat time-trial, with a strong tailwind in the first half, and a headwind back to the finish.
23-year-old Stefan Bissegger started early and set an impressive time, averaging 55.6 km/h for 9:43. His speed in the tailwind section was 60.9 km/h for 4:26, one second faster than Ganna. Filippo Ganna, who has won two time-trials already this season in Besseges and Provence, lost further time to Bissegger on the headwind second half of this course.
Bissegger had an outstanding break-through season last year, where he surprised with two World-Tour level ITT wins in Paris-Nice (14.4 km) and Benelux Tour (11.1 km), the latter of which was against Affini and Küng. He also won a breakaway stage in Tour de Suisse in a sprint against Benjamin Thomas. The Young Bull is suited perfectly for prologues and short time-trials and will certainly be aiming for the yellow jersey in Tour de France this year, which starts with a flat 13 kilometre ITT.
The double World ITT champion Filippo Ganna eventually lost by 7 seconds to Bissegger. He was the big favourite in the betting markets, with a 60-65% chance given to him according to the odds, with Bissegger given around a 25% chance. In the 2021 UAE Tour ITT Ganna beat Bissegger by 14 seconds in a 13 km ITT, with those roles reversed here. Perhaps Ganna is not quite at his top form yet, especially considering his small gap to Dumoulin in third.
The Dutch ITT champion’s form looks good, after an extended stint in Colombia training in the off-season, but how well he will go against top climbers on Jebel Jais and Jebel Hafeet is still unknown. The main GC favourite Tadej Pogačar allayed fears that his recent COVID infection may have affected him, finishing fourth only four seconds behind Dumoulin. His new team-mate and UAE-Emirates second GC threat Joao Almeida finished another four seconds back from Pogačar.
UAE’s biggest competitors, Aleksandr Vlasov and Adam Yates, performed exceptionally well on the flat parcours. This was definitely one of the most impressive time-trial performances by Yates, who lost over 2.6s/km to Pogačar in the UAE ITT last year, only losing 1.1s/km here. However, he will still need to attack on mountains to gain time against Pogačar which is no easy feat.
How much time the GC favourites lost to Tom Dumoulin:
- Tadej Pogačar +0:04
- Joao Almeida +0:08
- Aleksandr Vlasov +0:11
- Neilson Powless +0:14
- Adam Yates +0:15
- David De La Cruz +0:22
- Fausto Masnada +0:24
- Pello Bilbao +0:26
- Romain Bardet 0:32
- Jai Hindley +0:38
- Gino Mader +0:45
- Jan Hirt +0:47
Stage 4 will be the first of two mountain tests in the UAE Tour. Jebel Jais is 18.8 kilometres long and only 5.7% steep. The last kilometres are only 5-6 % gradient.
In 2021, Jonas Vingegaard won on Jebel Jais with an attack with 1.1 km to go from the peloton. He caught in the last few meters Alexey Lutsenko, who was in a breakaway fighting into a headwind. The Dane did 5.58 w/kg for 44:58 and 33 riders finished within 48 seconds of him.
Drafting is extremely important on this shallow climb. Serious attacks should be close to the finish, like in Vingegaard’s case, who already at that time had lost any chances in GC, hence why the big teams did not bother to chase him.
UAE-Emirates will perhaps be more interested in chasing the breakaway than last year because both Pogačar and Almeida have some of the strongest finishing kicks in the GC group. With the reversal of the order of Jebel Jais and Jebel Hafeet this year, and the proximity of Yates and Dumoulin on GC, we expect UAE to be more aggressive on this stage, with bonus seconds potentially deciding GC in the UAE Tour.