An impressive show of consistency by Team Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic has allowed the Slovenian allrounder to dominate the first ever edition of the UAE Tour from beginning to end.
Second in the Middle East’s only UCI WorldTour race was the current World Road-Race Champion, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 31 seconds back, with Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu in third.
Although unable to defeat Roglic overall, Valverde nonetheless was able to claim his first victory clad in the rainbow jersey of World Champion when he won the UAE Tour’s toughest single climb, the ascent to Jebel Hafeet on stage three, his landmark victory also being his 100th in Movistar colours. But Roglic never looked to be in trouble, gaining a little extra time ahead of his rivals with a third place at the lungburstingly steep ascent to Hatta Dam on stage four, then winning the UAE Tour’s final summit finish stage, at Jebel Jais, to further cement his overall lead.
After Saturday’s final sprint stage concluding in Dubai was won by Sam Bennett (BORA-hansgrohe), Roglic claimed his first overall stage race victory since the Tour of Slovenia last June.
“It was quite windy on this last day and I felt nervous about that, but we finished strongly, just as we started this race,” Roglic said afterwards.
“The best thing was my stage win,” added Valverde. “Roglic was a deserving winner and all I can do is congratulate him.”
Jumbo-Visma got off to the best possible start in the UAE Tour with victory in the Al Hadayriat Island team time trial, their blisteringly high average speed 57 kmh pushing Team Sunweb into second place at seven seconds.
UAE Team Emirates then snatched an important victory in their home race on stage two thanks to new signing Fernando Gaviria’s power and speed in the UAE Tour’s first bunch sprint.
When the race headed into the mountains on stage three, Gaviria’s team-mate Dan Martin launched a powerful attack in the closing kilometres of the Jebel Hefeet summit finish climb. But neither Martin nor Roglic, who bridged across to the Irishman, could stop Valverde then overhauling the field for victory in the final metres.Already a winner on the same ascent in the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2018, Valverde said later that "It was difficult to follow Roglic. He went very early.”
“But I knew I had to bide my time and go at the same point I went last year. It was very important to know the climb and have that reference from last year.”
Valverde did not rule out an attack on the overall lead in the remainder of the race. But a late crash on the fast and furious run-in to the Hatta Dam on stage four cost the Spaniard valuable strength bridging back to the leaders.
Instead, victory that day on the 17 percent final uphill finish went to Australian Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), claiming his first win with his new team. And a very late challenge by Italian Elia Viviani enabled the Italian to take his third WorldTour win of 2019 on stage five in the race’s second full bunch sprint.
But on the next important GC stage culminating in a steady 20 kilometre ascent to Jebel Jais, Roglic and Jumbo-Visma ruled supreme.
Tony Martin and Laurens De Plus kept team-mate Roglic’s rivals under control with a relentlessly powerful pace, prior to Roglic himself managing to burst past Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) for his first win since the Tour de France stage in the Pyrenees last July.
24 hours later, the final stage’s bunch sprint was taken by Sam Bennett (BORA-hangrohe) in a powerful late acceleration taking the Irishman past Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) in the last 150 metres. But it was Roglic, who finished safely in the main pack, who claimed the overall victory.
“The TTT win on stage one was the ideal start, but all week we showed we have strong guys on our team and we could finish it off the way we wanted,” a delighted Roglic, who will target the Giro d’Italia later this season, said afterwards. “It’s my first race of the season and it’s a really good way to get things going.”