Dan Martin had to settle for fourth place on the penultimate stage of the UAE Tour after timing his sprint wrong at the top of the final climb. The UAE Team Emirates rider admitted afterwards that he had gone 100 metres too early after thinking he was much closer to the line than he was, and he ran out of steam.
Martin’s exertions were clear as he struggled up the remaining 400 metres to where the team’s campervan was parked. Riding for the home team, Martin was keen to have a good week at the UAE Tour and had come out to recon the climb ahead of the race. Situated on the border with Oman, the upper slopes of the climb are restricted to the public and he wasn’t able to see the route in its entirety.
Martin had been expecting a tougher finale, but he was still pretty pleased with how the day ended up. He would later explain to his new directeur sportif Neil Stephens that he’d ridden a really good stage, apart from the final 300 metres.
“We expected the last two kilometres to be a bit harder,” Martin explained. “Even though we came here last week, this bit is normally closed to the public, so we weren’t allowed up here for the last two kilometres. We expected it to be a little bit harder.
“I saw that Alejandro [Valverde] was a bit boxed in by Tom [Dumoulin] and I saw the finish and I thought it was 200 metres but the sign said it was 300 metres, so that’s why I kind of sat down and tried to make the other guys go earlier than me so I could go on the wheel, but I didn’t have the legs to go again. It was just a mistake.
“I rode a much better race than on Jebel Hafeet so I’m really happy because of that. Like the other day, I was just lacking that little bit of punch but it’s early season and sometimes you lack that little punch in your sprint. Hopefully we’ll move on from here and it will be another day for Fernando [Gaviria] tomorrow.”
The queen stage turned out to be fast and tense one, with crashes affecting several of the GC contenders early on. Martin avoided any trouble, keeping his nose out of the wind until the final metres of the climb. It was a relentless ride to the top with Jumbo-Visma once again setting a tough pace on the 20-kilometre ascent. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) won the stage to maintain the overall lead.
“It was really nervous all day, but I don’t think that it was in anyone’s interest to try and split it in the crosswinds. It wasn’t a truce, but it was a bit nervous. The guys did a great job of protecting me all day and on that climb. It’s a strange climb and it was so fast,” said Martin.
“It’s a very different effort to what we race in Europe because it’s so fast, you’re getting so much draft on the wheel. It’s almost tactical the way that you’re riding in the group and when you had to make a move and where you did it. It wasn’t a typical 20-kilometre climb. We knew that before the start because we came to see it. It was pretty much big chainring the whole way up.
“The wind played a part with headwind stretches and tailwind stretches. I don’t know how big the gap was, but you see cycling is so close these days and if you make these small mistakes then you don’t win. That’s what cost us today.”