The UAE-Emirates mountain train went full-gas today, following orders from their team leader Tadej Pogačar. It was not all smooth sailing, with the Slovenian having to mark multiple attacks by himself, but in the end he won the bunch sprint easily on the Jebel Jais climb (18.8 km, 5.7%), taking also the leader’s jersey.
This is one of the most important races of the year for UAE-Emirates. They lit up the Jebel Jais climb, taking over pacing from EF Education-EasyPost with 14 km to go after the breakaway had been controlled. It was possible to see on TV Tadej Pogačar giving orders with his team radio to set the pace higher.
One by one UAE sent to the front their domestiques, Mikkel Bjerg, George Bennett and Rafal Majka, to thin down the peloton with pacing from Bennett and then attacks from Majka. It worked as many riders dropped early, including Tom Dumoulin.
Pogačar raced aggressively and tested other climbers legs with 8 km to go. Aleksandr Vlasov immediately marked him. After that there was chaos as multiple riders attacked.
The most dangerous was a 6-man group with Rafal Majka, Ruben Guerreiro, Chris Harper, Rein Taaramäe, Gino Mäder, and Andreas Leknessund. Meanwhile, in the peloton, 21-year-old Australian champion Luke Plapp single-handedly closed the gap to the group.
With 4 km to go, Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux activated with Jan Hirt and Rein Taaramäe, who did an impressive pull to launch his team-mate. According to Taaramäe’s Strava data, he did 496 watts (~7,3 w/kg) for 98 seconds, while setting-up attack for Hirt, creating a split in the group despite the shallow gradients.
Hirt attacked with 3 km to go, but was marked by Pogačar, perhaps knowing the Czech is in top form after his performance on Green Mountain in Oman last week. The Intermaché climber attacked later two more times, but Pogačar also covered those moves. It was impossible for the Czech to go solo when he was being man-marked three times by the Tour de France champion at 25km/h. Pogačar was obviously feeling strong as he closed down easily Vlasov’s counter attack after he had closed down Hirt three times, but it does beg the question why Pogacar was so exposed so early in the climb despite having Almeida, Bennett and Majka all on decent form.
The tempo slowed down with 1500m remaining and the riders from the second group joined, including Pogačar’s team-mates Rafal Majka and Joao Almeida, who predictably set up a sprint train for the Slovenian in the last kilometre so that there would be no further attacks.
Luke Plapp, who yesterday rode yesterday’s time-trial on a road bike and lost over a minute to the other GC contenders, attacked late. Majka took care of the Australian and closed him. Maybe it was a reverse lead-out for INEOS team-mate Adam Yates, but the higher tempo did not help another INEOS rider, Filippo Ganna, who lost at the end to Pogačar by three seconds, costing him a day in the leader’s jersey. After the stage Pogačar was only two seconds ahead in the GC to Ganna.
Ruben Guerreiro was first to launch his sprint from the bunch. Pogačar easily followed the Portuguese rider and in the end no one could answer the Slovenian, who was way faster than everyone else in the group sprint as expected.
Yates and Vlasov finished behind him with the same time, with a larger group of GC contenders finishing on 3 seconds.
Stage 5 will be another flat day for sprinters, but perhaps Ganna will try and take some bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints in order to leapfrog Pogacar on GC for a day.
Neilson Powless finished in the first group on Jebel Jais both in 2021 and 2022. Today he finished 15th, losing three seconds to Pogačar. In 2021, the American finished 16th, losing eight seconds to the stage winner Jonas Vingegaard.
In 2022, Jebel Jais was ridden slower. Powless lost 21 seconds to his 2021 time, but produced more average and normalized power due to attacks in the peloton. His strava input weight is 66 kilograms. In the last 20 minutes today, Powless did 385 w (5,83 w/kg) and his normalized power was 392 w (5,94 w/kg).
Neilson Powless data on Jebel Jais in 2021 and 2022:
- 369 watts (5,59 w/kg) for 45:30 in 2021 (normalized power 374 watts)
- 370 watts (5,61 w/kg) for 45:51 in 2022 (normalized power 377 watts)
You can see from this data that the climb was once again not done at a nuclear pace in the draft. With riders arriving to the base of the climb relatively fresh, it is no surprise that a large group made it to the finish and small gaps on GC eventuated.