Before the last stage of the UAE Tour, made for the general classification riders, Arnaud Démare experienced another disappointing sprint on Saturday. After 166 kilometers of very calm racing, the French champion seemed in a good position 500 meters from the line, but he was then overtaken from the left, which prevented him from fighting for the first positions. Thirteenth on the day, he will turn into a domestique for Michael Storer on Sunday towards Jebel Hafeet.

A last bunch sprint was expected on this penultimate day of racing in the Emirates. It was also the flattest stage of the week, contested over 166 kilometres around Abu Dhabi. This did not prevent Larry Warbasse (AG2R-Citroën), Edward Planckaert (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Samuele Zoccarato (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizenè) from creating a breakaway from kilometre 0. The trio then built a maximum lead of five minutes, which was nevertheless reduced under the one-minute bar with forty kilometres to go thanks to the work of various sprinters teams. The last seconds were eventually absorbed more gradually since Warbasse, the last man standing from the breakaway, was caught five kilometres from the finish line. The expected sprint could then happen. “We also had a finish here last year, but we were coming from the right with a corner which really stretched the peloton”, recalled Sébastien. “This year, as we arrived in quite a straight line with a front, it kept the peloton together. The plan for us was to take the lead with two kilometres to go because there was a slight curve, and more importantly, the road was narrowing. Kono worked well before it, but they lost each other a bit at that point”. Arnaud Démare still managed to regain the top positions around the flamme rouge. “He was in a good position in the wheel of the Lotto-Dstny, but they got boxed in a bit and he was also blocked behind”, explained Sébastien. “What’s more, the finish wasn’t completely straight, there was a slight curve to the left.”

“It’s not easy to get a real opportunity on these routes“, Arnaud Démare

Located on the right of the road 300 meters from the line, the Frenchman couldn’t do anything when a wave of riders came from the left and went on to fight for victory. He had to settle for thirteenth place. “Of course, we felt disappointment in the group this evening, but there were still good things tactically this week with a partly new group”, added Sébastien. “You have to look at the bright side of things”. The former French champion also drew an assessment of his race. “We know the sprints here are very specific: big roads, a lot of freshness in all the teams, a big field of sprinters. We did our best with the group to do good sprints. The echelons, on the first day, were hard for a return to racing. We then tried to organize with Clément, Kono, but also with Bram and Laurence, and it was newer with them. We learn to work together, there are good things to keep but also some that we must improve. We know that it is not easy to get a real opportunity on these routes. The shape was so-so at the start of the week, but it will still be a good race to get back after being sick. I hope to get a bit of freshness and power for Paris-Nice”.

The UAE Tour is not over, however, and a nice challenge awaits Michael Storer, 21st overall, on Sunday in Jebel Hafeet (10.7 km at 6.8%). “We are going to work for Michael tomorrow, because he can get a top-10 overall, it’s within his reach”, concluded Arnaud.

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