In the first mountain stage of the UAE Tour, with a finish atop of Jebel Hafeet, the Groupama-FDJ gave its full support to Anthony Roux, 7th overall on Tuesday morning. The former French champion indeed benefited from the help of the team’s climbers and tried to limit his losses. However, he slips to 11th overall after stage 3.
On Tuesday, the peloton headed towards the usual climb of Jebel Hafeet. Located on the border of the United Arab Emirates and Oman, this mountain has been done every year since the creation of the event in 2015. “We knew a good part of today’s stage because we did it last year”, said Jussi Veikkanen. “We also knew what were the strategic areas. With the wind, there was notably a risk of echelons after about 70 kilometers. However, the peloton eventually let the two-rider breakaway go”. Attacking from the very start of the stage, Tony Gallopin (AG2R-Citroën) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) got more than six minutes on the bunch, where the tension rose just for a moment during the first part of the race. In the second part, the duo’s gap gradually went down and barely was of a minute approaching the final climb (10.6 km at 6.8%).
“Antho did not have a great day,” Jussi Veikkanen
“The guys tried to place Anthony as well as possible at the bottom,” Jussi explained. “First, William and Lada did a good job and then Olivier took over. Anthony was one step ahead of many climbers who got caught in the echelons on day one. For that reason, we wanted to try today. The goal was to keep Anthony in the top 10 overall, so we did everything we could to achieve that and gave him two teammates for the last climb.” However, due to a frantic pace from the first slopes, the former French champion was dropped quite far from the top and then tried to hold on in his teammates’ wheels. “It was a straight climb for pure climbers,” Jussi said. “Matteo, Attila and even Olivier were there to help him but the climb was covered at a very fast pace. Furthermore, with the tailwind, there was little hope of staying with the favourites for long. We wanted to limit our losses but Antho did not have a great day today. That’s a pity”.
At the finish, the 33-year-old Frenchman crossed the line just in front of his teammates, more than seven minutes from the winner and race leader Tadej Pogacar. On Tuesday evening, Anthony Roux slips to eleventh place overall while a second mountain top finish is due on Thursday. “First, we need to get through a long stage with a possibility of echelons tomorrow,” concluded Jussi. “As for what will happen next, we will take stock tomorrow evening”.