By David Hunter
Dubai – Hatta Dam 197km
A stage we’ve grown to love over the last few years.
This stage has featured in the race since 2015, the previous winners are John Degenkolb, Juan José Lobato and Sonny Colbrelli, with the stage being cancelled in 2017. It gives you an indication of which type of rider is likely to win here, a powerful sprinter.
The stage is quite boring, with a trip through the desert. Unlike previous stages, we don’t have much wind around and it shouldn’t be a nervous day for the bunch. The problems begin in the final 20km, with some steep gradients to deal with before the Hatta Dam itself.
The first lump is 900m at 8.1%, this is quickly followed by 500m at 7.9%. The riders then have to tackle around 10km of rolling terrain, before we hit the dam wall.
The big fight is for the final corner just 200m before the finish. To win this stage, you must be at the head of the race. The climb is 200m at 17.1%, which is around 30 seconds of hurt. If you start 2 seconds off the front, that makes life very difficult for you. Having a full lead out into the corner will be a massive help.
This used to be the Queen stage in the Dubai Tour, a race with few climbers. As it now sits in the UAE Tour, we have a long list of climbers who’ll look forward to testing themselves. The problem for the climbers is that some of the sprinters simply have too much power for them over 30 seconds, it doesn’t matter the gradient.
We could see a different stage compared to usual, as I’m sure some riders will want to attack on the double climb 10km from home. Holding off the bunch will be complicated, but if a couple of strong riders escape, they will have a chance of holding on.
Sunny and hardly any wind.
Fernando Gaviria – the Colombian was very impressive on Monday, taking a fine win. In terms of sprinting, he launched his sprint from quite far out. He was led out perfectly by Alexander Kristoff, but to go at 250m and hold off Viviani was hugely impressive. Looking at this stage, the climbs shouldn’t be a problem for the Colombian, he can handle himself on the hills. Running into the finish, being at the front will be important, that’s where Kristoff, Costa and Ulissi will be important. If he starts the climb at the front, he has the raw power needed to take the win.
Alejandro Valverde – what curse? The world champion was outstanding today, timing his moves to perfection. He was 2nd here in 2015, when Degenkolb powered to his win. Valverde is great at positioning himself in the bunch, but without recognised sprinters, he might start a few wheels off the front. He has the power required to challenge for the win, but it still won’t be easy against the powerful quick men. He will hope to secure some more bonus seconds as he looks to close the gap on Roglič.
Caleb Ewan – I like his chances on the dam. Ewan is no stranger to short and steep climbs, carrying less weight than most really does help. Add into that his sprinting power and we have a rider who should be challenging in this stage. His team aren’t as strong as the others, he’ll need a big ride from Kluge to help with position in the final kilometre.
Paddy Bevin – has the power to win, but his team won’t be able to get him near the front.
Michal Kwaitkowski – not sure he has the grunt to win the stage.
Omar Fraile – I do like Fraile for this one. Cast your mind back to the Tour of Romandie and you’ll remember he beat Colbrelli in an uphill sprint. Fraile has the power required, but like a few of his rivals, I’m worried about the strength of his team. I don’t think they’ll be able to get him close enough to the front.
Elia Viviani – 6th here last year, it would be a surprise to see him bettering that result.
I was seriously impressed by his win on Monday and think that Fernando Gaviria will do it again. He has the team to place him and the power to finish it off.
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