Dan Martin believes that Tuesday's stage 3 summit finish on Jebel Hafeet is likely to decide the overall winner of the first UAE Tour. However, he says that the length and potential wind on the newly introduced Jebel Jais during stage 6 a few days later will make for a tactically difficult finale to the race.
Martin (UAE Team Emirates) recced some of the route ahead of the race start and is one of the few riders who has seen both summit finishes – with Movistar's Alejandro Valverde another. Jebel Hafeet is half the distance of Jais – at 10 kilometres - while its gradients are much less steady, and Martin is expecting the fireworks to come on that climb.
"I've seen both climbs. Jebel Hafeet suits me and then the longer climb on stage 6 will depend on how the wind is. I think with the easier gradient, the wind could make a bigger difference and tactically it will be really tricky," Martin told Cyclingnews.
"I think Hafeet is the one that will be a lot more aggressive. If you take the jersey on Hafeet then you're probably the strongest climber and then it's just about defending on Jais on stage 6. It's a long climb, it's a different effort to Hafeet and it's long and steady. It's not super steep, but the top is hard, and nobody has done a 45-minute climb this year so it's obviously a big unknown."
Martin rode the Tour of Oman in 2016, but it is the first time that he has raced in the UAE. The heat will be an adjustment from the cooler climate of Europe, but it's not just the temperatures that Martin will have to get used to. The style of racing, with the major climbs all situated right at the end of the stages, will also be new.
"We were laughing earlier in the week that this is the only race where there are no downhills," Martin said. "It's either flat, flat or flat, uphill. It's a different kind of racing because you don't have that endurance climb after climb after climb, which suits some guys. It's flat all day and that change of rhythm at the end when you've been riding flat all day with big gears and fast speed all day, that's a different kind of racing to what we get in Europe. I've never done that kind of racing so I didn't know how I will react."
The UAE Tour is the second race of the season for Martin after the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, where he finished fifth overall. Riding for the home team, the week-long race has been a major priority for him heading into the 2019 season.
UAE Team Emirates lost 36 seconds to Jumbo-Visma and Primoz Roglic in the opening team time trial. It is plenty of time for Martin to try and make up over the coming days, but he still intends to make a mark on the overall classification.
"We go to every race with the same attitude, obviously this one we come here with the best team possible and in our best condition, whereas other teams it might not have been an objective. We're in good fitness and good condition, and hopefully that makes getting results easier," said Martin.
"It's a priority for the team. They asked me to be in good condition here. I got sick after Valencia, but I think I needed the rest. It was one of those winters where I felt really good, so I kept training harder and harder and I needed that break after Valencia to freshen up for here. I felt really good in the team time trial yesterday, so we look forward to tomorrow."
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