Despite some echelons in the final, the fifth stage of the UAE Tour did end with a bunch sprint on Friday. This time, Arnaud Démare was able to test his legs. Perfectly positioned by his lead-out train before the last kilometre, the Frenchman eventually came away with tenth place after starting his effort from quite far. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla) took the win, while a final chance for the sprinters looms on Saturday.
A large part of the stage 5’s course was taking place in the desert, this Friday on the UAE Tour. However, everything was quite calm for nearly 150 kilometres, out of the 170 kilometres on the menu. It even took quite a while to see a first breakaway establish itself, with Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën), Louis Vervaeke, Josef Cerny (Soudal-Quick Step) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Dstny). The four men reached the first intermediate sprint, fought for the bonus seconds, but only one rider kept on going. De Gendt thus led the race alone for almost two hours, before the peloton caught him just before entering the last twenty kilometres. This is also where things got more nervous within the pack, due to a change in direction. “There was a slightly stronger wind in the final”, explained Sébastien Joly. “We had been informed by Jussi, who was in front of the race, that the wind was stronger and that it would come from the side, or ¾ from the back. The guys were very attentive, in particular Arnaud, and that allowed us to be in the mix when it split. Since some favorites were caught up, it came back a little later with the headwind, but it still made for a slightly harder race”.
“It’s going in the right direction”, Sébastien Joly
Everything was back to normal nine kilometres from the line, but then the sprint preparation began. After staying slightly in the background, the Groupama-FDJ’s train moved up front shortly before the last two kilometres with Ignatas Konovalovas, Laurence Pithie, Bram Welten and Arnaud Démare. “The guys executed the plan we made this morning at the briefing, following the video debriefing of yesterday, and that’s very interesting”, commented Sébastien. “We still need to adjust a few things, but for their second sprint together, things are going in the right direction”. In the front row after the last roundabout with 700 meters to go, Arnaud Démare then tried to follow other trains, but finally found himself in the lead quite early for a very long sprint. “Arnaud was really satisfied with the job of his teammates, but he lacked shelter in the last hundred metres”, said Sébastien. “He found himself a bit alone in the middle of the road while those who finished on the podium were rather on the left. We need to work on some details, we will analyse that, but we are gradually getting closer to a better performance”. The former French champion obtained his first top-10 of the year (10th), and a new chance should come on Saturday.
In the general classification, Michael Storer retains his twenty-first place.