The Queen stage of the 2023 UAE Tour did not disappoint, with Remco Evenepoel and Adam Yates pushing huge watts on Jebel Hafeet and setting a new climbing record into a headwind.
As usual, the Jebel Hafeet stage is perfect for high w/kg performances in February as the route before it is pancake flat and typically not raced very hard. Rein Taaramäe spent 2000 kilojoules for the 3+ hours before Hafeet which is less than 10 kJ/kg/h. A very easy tempo, which you will rarely see in European stage races, which allows riders to better manage the hot conditions than they would otherwise if the racing was harder throughout the day.
UAE-Emirates and Soudal Quick-Step paced as hard as possible at the bottom of the climb – perfect for a fast time. There was a decent headwind blowing down the climb as the wind map shows below. The red sections are a headwind, the purple – cross headwind/crosswind, the dark blue – crosswind/cross tailwind and the light blue – tailwind.
After Brandon McNulty finished pulling for Adam Richard Yates, the Briton attacked on the steep section of Jebel Hafeet with 6.2 km to go. Only Remco Evenepoel and Sepp Kuss could respond to the strong acceleration. Evenepoel, despite leading the GC by 74 seconds again Yates, decided to set a hard tempo 400 metres later after Yates could not drop the World Champion.
Evenepoel already showed multiple times in the 2022 races, such as in the Vuelta a España, that he feels most comfortable riding his own tempo to prevent attacks. This is great for high watts as the tempo is steady, with no slowing down, and other strong riders such as Yates can benefit from the draft in Evenepoel’s wheel.
Evenepoel’s tempo was too high for Kuss who dropped but it was perfect for Yates. The UAE-Emirates rider could save some energy, while the race leader was pulling hard in the headwind. A reversal of the position he has found himself in on Hafeet against Pogačar in the last two years, where the Slovenian would sit in his wheel. With 3 km to go Yates attacked in a steep corner from behind, distancing Evenepoel but could generate a big enough gap to have a realistic chance at the overall win.
It was Yates’ second win on Jebel Hafeet after losing twice in a row in the previous two editions to his now teammate Tadej Pogačar. Evenepoel in the end lost only 10 seconds and won overall by 59 seconds over Lucas Plapp. Yates was 3rd in the GC as he lost most of the time to Evenepoel and Plapp in Stage 1 due to crosswinds and in the team time-trial.
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Adam Yates also set a new climbing record, beating Pogačar’s time by 11 seconds. As mentioned previously, there was a decent headwind up the climb which only increased ᵉW/Kg in our calculations. Evenepoel did 6.78 ᵉW/Kg, which was 0.06 ᵉW/Kg more than what Yates did as the Belgian paced for multiple kilometres with the Briton sitting in the draft. Both performances are huge but the climbing conditions were ideal except for the desert heat – altitude, ease of stage and pacing were all perfect.
The climbing performance by Remco Evenepoel was very impressive by pure ᵉW/Kg standards, as the World Champion almost reached the pink Top 25 All-Time trend-line, meaning this was probably one of the Top 10 greatest ᵉW/Kg performances in the 21st century if fatigue and other conditions are ignored. Most of the great w/kg performances in cycling history happened in the mid-90s. Evenepoel would have had to push around 6.85 ᵉW/Kg for 26 minutes to hit the trend-line. Our calculations are normalised for 60 kg climbers, which is explained more in the article here.
Other riders like Adam Yates, Geoffrey Bouchard, Sepp Kuss, Luke Plapp and Antonio Tiberi also did extremely well on the climb. Bouchard already performed great in the Tour of Oman earlier in February and this was not a coincidence. Another good effort by the Frenchman in the desert races with low kilojoules.
To date, the greatest climbing performance in February was Nairo Quintana's fast time up Chalet Reynard in the 2020 Tour de la Provence (6.67 ᵉW/Kg for 28:12) right before Covid-19 exploded around the world. Quintana's performance is slightly worse than Evenepoel's looking at the power curve but the Chalet Reynard stage was way harder with 12.8 kj/kg/h for 3:10h, while the Hafeet stage was 9.6 kj/kg/h for a little bit over 3:02h. We consider Quintana's performance more impressive even though he had preferable temperature conditions, with the cool 10 degrees Celsius close to a perfect temperature for climbing. Nonetheless, both efforts are outstanding for February. It is very likely this season that we will see efforts which go above the pink trend-line as riders, such as Evenepoel, are not yet in their peak shape.
Kārlis Ozols (@CyclingGraphs)