UAE-Emirates without Tadej Pogačar is still a force to be reckoned with in WorldTour races. Despite their young superstar Juan Ayuso having a tough day in the leader’s jersey, Adam Yates was on fire on one of the longest climbs featured in the UCI calendar. The Briton has had an unlucky start to the year with his new team but danced away from a select GC group on the steep section of Thyon 2000 to take both the stage and the leader’s jersey.
20.9 km at 7.6% is a serious challenge as a mountain finish, especially finishing over 2000m as the climb’s name suggest. The steepest sections are in the second part which made this day even harder for the climbers, with rouleur domestiques still present in the group early to contribute to pace setting.
It was a hard tempo before Thyon 2000. Rein Taaramäe had to do 3776 kilojoules for 4 hours, which is 13.97 kj/kg/h. For a one-week stage race, this is extremely hard and fueling on such a day is extremely important to keep close to peak watts in the rain.
Juan Ayuso was the race leader after his win in the previous day’s hilly time trial but after a 7-month pause due to health issues, the young Spaniard was not at the top of his game on a long w/kg climb. UAE Emirates paced the climb but then stopped after Mikkel Bjerg suffered from a mechanical during his pull. Surprisingly, Jayco AlUla took over with Chris Harper despite having two teammates Craddock and Juul-Jensen still up the road from the day’s breakaway. Their original team leader Simon Yates exited the race on Stage 1 due to stomach issues but they still had left Filippo Zana and Eddie Dunbar as options for a decent GC result.
A big selection was made when DSM threw down the hammer with Oscar Onley working for Romain Bardet and Max Poole. The tempo was too high for many GC riders including Juan Aysuo and Gino Mäder, as well as other young prospects like Gloag and Martinez, who were all dropped.
After Onley had reduced the group to around 10 riders, with teammate Max Poole still in the group, Romain Bardet attacked. It was an open race as Roglič, Pogačar, Evenepoel or Vingegaard were not here and no team had multiple riders except for DSM.
After Bardet’s attack did not work there were attempts from Simon Carr and Eddie Dunbar but it was a day for UAE-Emirates. Adam Yates had diamonds in the legs and made the winning move with 4.6 km to go. Matteo Jorgenson despite his big size was holding a constant tempo on the near double digit gradients and at the moment of Yates’ accelerated he seemed to elect to let the wheel go rather than completely explode at altitude.
Thibaut Pinot in his last season still has some gunpowder left and the Frenchman at the end lost only 7 seconds to Yates with a counterattack from the group lead by Jorgenson. 20 year-old Max Pool and Cian Uijtdebroeks finished in the following group with Jorgenson and Caruso. Another impressive performance from Egan Bernal who after such a hard stage and climb finished eighth, showing big watts. Ayuso finished more than 3 minutes behind Yates who took the leader’s jersey with a nice lead ahead of the final stage tomorrow.
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Adam Yates improved Michael Woods’ 2021 climbing record by more than 2 minutes and 20 seconds. The Briton’s 5.95 ᵉW/Kg for almost an hour is very impressive, especially after such a hard stage and to over 2,000m altitude. 17 riders in 2023 did a faster time than Woods two years ago, however the conditions were much more favourable today compared to the freezing rain that caused Thomas to lose feeling in his hands and crash near the finish.
Despite not winning, Thibaut Pinot and Damiano Caruso did their career peak numbers for this duration. Gloag, Poole and Uijtdebroeks who are all eligible to be in the under 23 ranks did performances above or very close to the yellow trendline. In the future (or even in this season) if they progress by a small margin they might have a shot of winning on mountain top finishes against top competition. Matteo Jorgenson is very strongly rumoured to go to Jumbo-Visma and after taking a big leap this season might become even stronger in the future at the Dutch outfit.
Kārlis Ozols (@CyclingGraphs)