I’ll be picking the sand and desert grime out of my hair, ears, eyes and everywhere else for a while following Stage 4 of the UAE Tour.
A stronger breakaway group went away early and were given a substantial leash. Back in the bunch, the top GC teams played some games trying to get each other to work. I never can quite understand that squabbling, especially if you are a team like Movistar with a guy like Valverde. If you show time and time again that you have the best guy in the race, just stick a guy on the front and get to work.
They eventually did and we knew it would be a fast second half of the stage heading into some small climbs and a punchy uphill finish.
The forecasted light winds proved false and the group was back into high alert as the winds whipped up and sand rained down on us midway through the stage. For a moment, we had some massive crosswind splits and visibility was so bad that it was hard to see who was where on the road. I think it came more out of defense than offense and we eventually regrouped as the sand storm subsided and we headed into slightly hillier and sheltered terrain.
We planned to position my Luka for the final 200-meter uphill sprint, and we did well staying up front and definitely got lucky to be on the left side of the road when the massive pileup happened around six kilometers remaining.
Then pace eased up as everyone took stock of who was there and who wasn’t. This made the final technical kilometer even more dicey with the group swarming on both sides. When we hit the wall in the final 200 meters, I knew I was too far back as we rounded the corner. The guys in front of me were instantly coming backward. Fortunately, Luka went through in better position and powered to a solid fifth place. I was just outside of the top 10.
Even more than the placing, I’m happy to be safely through and have another day of some substantial race efforts in the legs, though I’m sure they will leave a mark!
Tomorrow should be a flatter sprint affair, but with these shoddy forecasts and windy conditions, it’s anyone’s guess what sort of shenanigans will play out on the road.
Race Images: Getty Images