Sam Bennett (right) celebrates after winning the fourth stage of the UAE Tour on Wednesday. Associated Press
Irish rider Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) crossed the line first in a bunch sprint on the fourth stage of the UAE Tour (the Hope Probe Stage) on Wednesday.
This is the first victory in 2021 for last year’s Tour de France Green Jersey-winner, and his 50th as a professional rider.
At the end of a stage marked by a breakaway effort from Frenchmen Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) and François Bidard (AG2R-Citroen Team), Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) retained the overall leader’s jersey by finishing safely in the bunch.
Bennett beat David Dekker, Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani at the end of the 204-kilometre stage that started and ended at the tourist resort of Marjan Island.
“It feels good to win my first sprint of the season,” said the 30-year-old who won the Tour de France sprint green jersey in 2020.
“I was really nervous before the sprint because it was the first fast bunch finish of the year for me. I knew I had a good condition but you still have to test yourself. I proved to myself today that I trained as well as I had to. It’s nice to reach fifty wins in my pro career. It’s good to get it here as I had missed out on a stage win at the UAE Tour last year,” he added.
Pogacar, of UAE Team Emirates, retains a 43-second cushion over British Ineos Grenadiers rider Adam Yates in the general classification.
“It was a pretty long and hot day in the saddle,” said Tour de France champion Pogacar.
“It was a shame that our sprinter Fernando Gaviria didn’t win, but we have another opportunity tomorrow,” he added, referring to Thursday’s fifth stage which ends at Jebel Jais, for the second summit finish of the event.
Poacar was already focussed on clinching the Tour itself, which could be achieved Thursday on the culminating 21km climb, with Yates and third-placed Joao Almeida still lurking close enough to punish any slip by the Slovenian.
“The next stage is going to be super hard. We all know how strong Adam Yates is. I hope to have good legs again,” added Pogacar.
“It’s still going to be a really hard battle though. I am told there can be head winds on the climb. In that case, it would be a bit easier to control it. I would like to win everywhere I can. It doesn’t matter where. A victory is a victory.”
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is also at the event, albeit in a bid to raise his fitness and get to know his new teammates at Israel Start-Up Nation.
“This is the next step in my preparations to be ready for the Tour de France,” Froome said on Saturday. He then told the British daily the Guardian this week: “I obviously have a long way to go.”
The 35-year-old winner of seven Grand Tours sits in 43rd here, 14mins and 59sec off the pace.
Italian veteran Vincenzo Nibali -- the only other active rider in the peloton to have won all three Grand Tours -- is also warming up for the Grand Tour season here and sits in 18th position, 10min 42sec behind Pogacar.
Rolling closures on select roads on Friday for 165km Dubai Stage: Meanwhile, with Dubai set to host Stage 6 of UAE Tour 2021 on Friday, the city will witness rolling road closures across the route, between noon and 4.30pm, with roads being reopened once the cyclists have passed through a section of the 165km Dubai Stage.
The rolling road closure system will be implemented from 12 noon, with the Dubai Stage scheduled to be flagged off from Deira Islands at 12.35pm and expected to finish at Palm Jumeirah around 4.30pm, after taking the cyclists on a tour of Dubai’s historically and culturally-rich older districts as well as its swanky new urban centres, and past some of the world’s most iconic landmarks.
Al Khaleej Street in Deira is expected to be partially closed from 12:30pm to 12:55, while the section starting from Baniyas Street, and passing through Rebat Street onto Ras Al Khor Road will be partially closed between 12:50 until 1:15pm.
The section between Dubai-Al Ain Road, Meydan, and Al Hadiqa Street is expected to be partially closed between 1:10pm to 1:25pm, while the closures on Al Wasl Street, Al Thanya Street and Jumeirah Street will take place between 1:20pm and 1:40pm.
The King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street, heading in the direction of Jebel Ali, will be partially closed between 1:35pm and 2:05pm, while sections of Al Asayel Street, Qarn Al Sabkha Road, Al Khail 1, Hessa Street and Sheikh Zayed bin Hamdan Al Nahyan Street will be closed between 2pm and 2:40pm. The segment through Al Qudra Road and Saih Al Salaam Street will be partially closed from 2:35pm to 3:55pm, and as the cyclists turn back on Al Qudra Road and head towards Umm Suqeim through Hessa Street, that segment is expected to be partially closed between 3:50pm-4:20pm.
The final stretch of the Dubai Stage, which will see the cyclists ride into Palm Jumeirah and sprint towards the finish at Atlantis, The Palm hotel, is expected to be partially closed from 4:15pm until 4:35 pm.