Tadej Pogačar won the queen stage of the UAE Tour and secured the GC win in his UAE Team Emirates’ home race. His biggest threat was Adam Yates, who attacked multiple times on Jebel Hafeet, needing to gain 17 seconds on Pogacar, but the Slovenian once again showed again that he is near impossible to beat in his target races.
It was a moderate headwind up Jebel Hafeet, the hardest climb of this race at 11km and 6.7% gradient. This helped Tadej Pogačar as it was harder to attack and drafting had a relatively bigger effect on the climb than normal. At the start of Jebel Hafeet Ruben Guerreiro, who finished 4th on Jebel Jais stage, crashed after the feeding zone. His hopes for the GC were destroyed. Early on in the ascent, Bora-Hansgrohe paced with Austrian champion Patrick Konrad, who did a stellar pull for multiple kilometres shredding the peloton for his team leader Aleksandr Vlasov.
It was a disappointing day for Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux. Both Rein Taaramäe and Jan Hirt dropped early on the climb. Their performance today was a shadow of what they did on Jabal al Akhdhar in Tour of Oman earlier in previous week as well as their aggressive move on Jebel Jais earlier in the week.
After Konrad finished his job, UAE Team Emirates brought out their climbing domestiques, Rafal Majka and George Bennett, to control the pace for Tadej Pogačar. Adam Yates at this point only had left one teammate Luke Plapp who was doing his best just to hang on to the group.
With 4 km to go, Pogačar accelerated to check how everyone was feeling. He looked back straight at Yates’ face to see if there would be a reaction. The leading group was thinned down to only 8 men, as Majka continued to pace with Pogačar slotted back in behind his wheel. It was the perfect situation for the UAE-Emirates. They did not need to gain time and could choose the tempo, with three riders in the group and Yates practically isolated.
Adam Yates attacked with 3 km to go but Pogačar easily followed him. He needed to attack to gain 13 seconds on the road (with at least 4 bonus seconds in addition) to beat the Slovenian for the overall. After Yates understood he could not drop Pogačar, they slowed down with a strong Pello Bilbao and Pogačar’s teammate Joao Almeida catching them from behind. Almeida continued to pace in the four man group and even attacked later on, forcing Yates to close him down with Pogacar in the wheel – again a perfect tactical situation for UAE.
Yates attacked again with one km to go and this time Pogačar was still able to follow him but it was visible he was struggling. In the end, it played out like the Jebel Hafeet stage in 2021. Yates did not have the legs to drop his rival after losing time in the TT, with the climb not paced quite hard enough for Yates. Pogačar before the last turn started to sprint, dropped Yates and easily won his fourth stage in the UAE Tour in his caeer, securing his second GC win in the Middle Eastern race.
A fantastic performance by 21-year-old Australian Luke Plapp, who finished 5th on Jebel Hafeet. Unfortunately, he did not finish Top 10 in GC because he lost over a minute in the time-trial where he rode with a road bike as he did not have a spare time-trial bike taken to the UAE Tour.
Carlos Verona, one of the best domestiques in the world, finished 6th on Jebel Hafeet and in the GC. The Spaniard used his rare leadership chance excellently against strong competition beating Oscar Rodriguez who likely would have been Movistar’s leader on paper before the race. He was beaten only by Pogačar, Yates, Bilbao, Vlasov and Almeida in the GC, all of whom are strong GC riders.
Pogačar and Yates lost to their Jebel Hafeet record time set in 2021 by 16 seconds. Yates produced more w/kg (6,33 w/kg for Yates, 6,28 w/kg for Pogačar) than Pogačar as the Slovenian drafted more, as he only needed to defend his leader’s jersey.
It is not an otherworldly performance by Yates and Pogačar’s standards, taking into account that the race before Jebel Hafeet always is extremely easy. Compared to other 2022 climbing performances on 10+ minute climbs, Jebel Hafeet is one of the best, but it is still behind Nairo Quintana Col d’Eze nuclear attack even ignoring the little fatigue before Jebel Hafeet.