It was a flat day for sprinters, with some late drama as Tadej Pogačar was close to losing time due to a badly timed puncture in the final 10 kilometres. Jasper Philipsen, who is showing incredible consistency in sprints, was able to win once again, taking his second victory in the UAE Tour 2022 after Stage 5.
At the start of the stage there was some crosswind action. The race leader Tadej Pogačar was in the first echelon, but his biggest threat in the GC, Adam Yates, was in the second echelon. The groups came back thanks to INEOS and Filippo Ganna’s hard work chasing the leading group with 127 km to go. Before the echelons came together, Pogačar took two bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint, losing only to Jasper Philipsen, extending his lead on GC to Adam Yates. Aleksandr Vlasov finished 3rd and earned one bonus second.
Later in the stage Pogačar punctured at the worst possible moment, with around 7 kilometres to go, just as the sprinters’ teams in the peloton were driving hard to catch Czech champion Michael Kukrle who was solo and 40 seconds ahead. When Pogačar changed his bike, he was 30 seconds behind the peloton. There was a high chance he would lose the leader’s jersey, but with 4 kilometres to go the Slovenian was back in the group after a sterling job by his teammate Bjerg. Kukrle was caught a brief moment later as they entered the final 3 kilometres.
Israel Premier-Tech was setting a high tempo in the peloton in the last kilometers like they did in stage 3, but their sprint train was not strong enough to put Rudy Barbier in an ideal position, as they dropped him with 300 meters to go at the left side of the road. Barbier needed to eat the wind and fight for the wheels at the right side of the road late in the stage which cost him a chance at a stage podium.
Danny van Poppel did another great lead-out for Sam Bennett, dropping him off with clear air at 160 metres to go, but the Irishman was not able to deliver once again. Jasper Philipsen was in his own league and with an impressive kick from Bennett’s wheel, won his second stage in the UAE Tour this year. Mark Cavendish did not have a chance to contest the sprint as he got a mechanical in the last kilometre.
An impressive performance from 20-year-old Olav Kooij in this sprint, after some frustration in the previous sprint stages where he finished 8th and 4th. He was sitting on Philipsen’s wheel and launched early trying to dive up the right hand side ahead of Bennett. Unfortunately he had to restart his sprint to the left hand side after Bennett shut off that lane, but his closing speed was extremely fast. Jumbo-Visma did not bring to the UAE Tour a full sprint train, which makes Kooij’s second place even more impressive against the best sprinters in the world (who all have dedicated last men as leadouts), considering that he needs to fight for the position alone in the final 400 metres. In the off-season Jumbo-Visma allowed Dylan Groenewegen to transfer to Bike-Exchange Jayco whilst he was still under contract. Already this decision has given a chance for young sprinters on Jumbo-Visma like Kooij to prove themselves in World-Tour races, a step up from the continental circuit where he was racing last year.
Stage 6 will be the last chance for the sprinters. Jasper Philipsen, with two sprint victories and one 2nd place, has practicaly secured the points jersey. We will see if Mark Cavendish will be fit enough to contest the sprint after his crash on stage 4 and whether Bike-Exchange can get their leadout for Groenewegen right in this final opportunity.