With the completion of the last 7th stage, Tadej Pogačar officially became the new winner of the UAE Tour. Last year, in the fight for the overall victory, his plans were thwarted by a coronavirus pandemic, which led to the race being stopped prematurely. This year, the UAE Tour was completed as initially planned, meaning that Tadej deservedly won the red jersey of the overall winner and the white jersey for the best young rider of the race.
After an amazing duel on the final climb in stage 3, a duel of sprinters was also expected in the fourth, flat stage. The crosswind was not a factor in this stage. Most of the time it passed at a calm pace without much stress for Tadej and his team. The two breakaway riders did not gain much of a time advantage and were caught 30km before the finish line. At that time, teams fighting for the positions of their sprinters came to the front of the group. The pace of the race rose sharply, along with the nervousness. The UAE Team Emirates successfully protected Tadej from the wind and kept him in the forefront, so that Tadej easily maintained the overall lead in the race.
The second and at the same time the last mountain stage ended with a 21km long ascent to Jebel Jais (1,491m), where Tadej could once again expect attacks from his competitors for the overall victory. The forecast for the wind was not promising a peaceful day for the riders, however in the end the wind did not pose a major problem for the UAE team Emirates.
A group of breakaway riders took a two minute lead before the final ascent, but this did not quite yet guarantee them a stage victory. On the final climb, the pace was dictated by the competitors from team Ineos, who were preparing the ground for Adam Yates’ attack. Lutsenko has been at the forefront for a long time and it already looked like he might be able to win the stage. Among the favorites, Nibali was the first one to attack, 3 km before the finish. The created difference was quickly covered by Almeida with an attack. Shortly afterward, Yates also tried with the attack, but Tadej followed him without any problems. A kilometer before the finish line, Vingegaard decided to attack. Since he was not dangerous in the fight for the overall victory in the race, none of the competitors followed him and the Danish rider ended up winning the stage. In the final sprint towards the finish line with the other favorites for the highest places, Tadej again showed his mastery and finished the stage in second place, thus gaining a few bonus seconds.
“There were quite a few attacks in the final part of today’s ascent. I decided to focus only on my main competitor and followed his attacks. I also managed a great sprint at the very end resulting in the second-place finish, which I am very happy with. The attacks of the competitors on the final ascent probably did not occur earlier due to the strong headwind. Of course, the race is not won yet, as we have two more stages ahead of us. Although the final two stages are flat big differences can still be made due to the possible crosswind. Because of that, we have to stay focused and fight on the remaining two stages” said Tadej after the stage.
Stage 6 & 7:
The last two stages were flat and the scenario was more or less known in advance. The UAE Team Emirates kept Tadej in the forefront to avoid possible falls and crosswinds that could have separated the Peloton into smaller groups. In both stages, there were a few breakaway riders in the foreground, but they were caught before the end and the stages ended with a classic sprint.
In the last 7th stage, Adam Yates, Tadej’s biggest competitor for the overall victory, found himself on the ground, but the leading group of riders, together with Tadej, waited for him in the spirit of »fair play“. Tadej drove safely to the finish line and fulfilled one of his main season goals: winning the “home” UAE Tour.
“It was not an easy stage, the wind made a difference and it was quite a nervous day. Thanks to the team I managed to stay in the first group. Then there was the crash of Adam Yates. We thought it was best to lower the pace to allow him to rejoin the group. The UAE Tour was the first big goal of the season for the team: I am very happy to have achieved the win in the home race and I am proud of how the team has performed. I would be happy to return to the UAE Tour in 2022 to defend the title I have just won, while as regards the short-term goals, I hope to be able to count on a good condition also in my next race: Strade Bianche” said the winner of UAE Tour 2021, Tadej Pogačar.
Tadej opened the 2021 season in the best possible way. This time he was placed in the role of one of the main favorites. He carried the heavy burden of the home race and the home team, but he did a great job and met all the possible expectations. He showed that he is once again very well prepared for the upcoming season and his fighting spirit undoubtedly followed his slogan “Never quit trying and never give up”.