Many of the sprinter teams in the peloton did not take the six-man breakaway with three Gazprom – RusVelo riders in it seriously enough. The peloton reacted too late in the last ten kilometres, robbing a chance for the sprinters to fight for the win, with 19-year-old Czech Mathias Vacek taking a surprise win and three Gazprom – RusVelo riders finishing in the top 5. This is the most unexpected outcome of a race in 2022 so far.
A 6-man breakaway formed early in the stage including Mathias Vacek, Dmitry Strakhov, and Pavel Kochetkov (Gazprom – RusVelo), Alessandro Tonelli and Johnatan Cañaveral (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), and Paul Lapeira (AG2R Citroën Team).
The breakaway situation seemed to be controlled well. With 40 km to go, the gap to the peloton was only 70 seconds, with Alpecin-Fenix and Quickstep-Alphavinyl both sending a rider to maintain the gap. At 17 kilometres to go, the gap was still at 70 seconds, but no other sprint teams, such as Groupama-FDJ or BikeExchange-Jayco, sent additional riders to help chase. The panic should have started with 10 kilometres to go when the gap had actually grown to 80 seconds and the sole rider chasing was Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl’s climber Fausto Masnada. He tried to manage the gap alone for a long time.
Later, climbers Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) joined Masnada at the front but were barely able to make a dent in the gap whilst the three Gazprom riders rode a three man time trial. Other sprinter teams like UAE-Emirates, Alpecin-Fenix, INEOS Grenadiers, Israel – Premier Tech, Bike Exchange – Jayco, DSM, Groupama – FDJ did not care about breakaway at all, and that backfired massively. With 5 kilometres to go, INEOS and UAE moved to the front with their domestiques, but this seemed mainly to keep their GC leaders Yates and Pogacar safe. BikeExchange and DSM only began pacing with under three kilometres to go, when it was far too late.
Gazprom – RusVelo played this stage really well. With 1.5 km to go Strakhov and Vacek went to the back of the group, while Kochetkov was pacing at the front. There was no time for cat and mouse tactics as the peloton was close. It was interesting to see Gazprom riders Vacek and Strakhov both sprinting from a standing position without a lead-out, perhaps hoping Strakhov could take more sprint jersey points. Luckily for Gazprom, Tonelli or Lapera did not appear to have much of a kick and the young Czech Vacek won by over a bike length.
This was the biggest victory for Gazprom since the 2016 Giro d’Italia when Alexander Foliforov surprised everyone with a victory in an uphill ITT, beating Kruijswijk, Valverde, Chaves and other great climbers.
Jasper Philipsen was the fastest from the peloton and keeps the points jersey by a narrow margin. If Strakhov tomorrow wins an intermediate sprint and Philipsen gets 0 points then Gazprom rider will win the points jersey competition.
The UAE Tour ends tomorrow with the queen stage that finishes on Jebel Hafeet (10.9 km, 6.7%). The steepest part is at 5-6 km to go when the climb is 11% steep. That should be the place where Adam Yates will try to test Tadej Pogačar’s legs, who is 17 seconds ahead of the INEOS rider. Aleksandr Vlasov and Jan Hirt won the queen stages respectively in Valenciana and Tour of Oman, and they both definitely are in good shape. Hirt is 58 seconds back from Pogačar, but it is expected that he and his climbing domestique, Rein Taaramäe, will try to do something on Jebel Hafeet.