To no one’s surprise, Tadej Pogacar is the winner of the 2022 UAE Tour. The final stage finished atop the Jebel Hafeet, the toughest climb of the race, which the Slovenian won as well in front of Adam Yates. The pair were undoubtedly the strongest of the UAE Tour and deserve the 1-2 overall. Ultimately, as predicted, Yates couldn’t overcome the time trial disadvantage and Pogacar simply had to manage his lead. He never had to make up any ground on his adversaries which made things even easier for the UAE Team Emirates leader.
It is unlikely that Yates would have been able to snag the red jersey even without the time trial loss, which accounted for 11 out of the 22 seconds the British rider finished behind the winner. However, the fact that it was always him that had to go on the offensive certainly didn’t help matters.
The final stage went about how you would expect when the leader’s jersey is worn by the best rider, on the best team. UAE finally stopped with the shenanigans of stage 4 and simply controlled the race on the final climb until Yates decided to attack. At that point it was Pogacar’s duty to prove that he deserved to take home the red jersey for the second year in a row. He did not falter, following Yates with 3.2km to go and overtaking him in the final meters for the stage win.
I expected more from Aleksandr Vlasov. He was 3rd overall at the beginning of the stage and, with just Filippo Ganna between himself and Pogacar, I thought he would, at least, secure a podium place. The fantastic performance put forth by Pello Bilbao ensured this wouldn’t happen, though. The Spaniard was only a cut below the clear dominant pair of the week, and that was enough for him to claim the lowest step of the podium.
João Almeida and Rafal Majka finishing the race in 5th and 7th place, respectively, is a testament of UAE’s quality. They were far and away the best team on paper and they showed it on the road. I’m very curious to see the Portuguese rider lead this team in the Giro. I have him as a future Grand Tour winner and it might happen this year already.
After such a long time waiting for it, we get two massive WT races on the same day. In the preview of this race I asked if Jumbo Visma was strong enough to carry the target that Wout Van Aert always has on his back in the classics. They were. They never let the race get away from them mainly thanks to Tiesj Benoot and Wout Van Aert himself, and, when it was time, after the Kapelmuur made the final selection, the latter left everyone behind to add the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to his palmares. The decisive attack was made after the Kapelmuur but it was the Bosberg climb that opened the gap and made it impossible for Van Aert to be caught.
Surprisingly Quick Step found themselves racing from behind a lot in this race and, unlike Jumbo, never seemed in control when the decisive moves happened. Florian Senechal was the Belgian team’s best placed rider in 9th place. Zdenek Stybar was the second best in 62nd, highlighting how disappointing the race was for the usually dominant classics’ team.
Sonny Colbrelli and Greg Van Avermaet were the fastest of the second group, claiming the remaining podium spots. The European champion Colbrelli looks to repeat last season’s successes and Van Avermaet surely wants to go back to the form that made AG2R pursue two offseasons ago. Last year wasn’t very noteworthy for a rider of his caliber with only the 3rd place in the Tour of Flanders standing out. A 3rd place here is excellent for the Belgian former Olympic champion, which he is hoping is a steppingstone for a successful classics’ season.
Thomas Pidcock, clear pre-race favorite alongside Van Aert, didn’t survive the Bosberg and was dropped about 10km from the finish. The young British rider, undoubtedly a star in the making, will look to the Strade Bianche next Saturday to try and avenge the mistakes he admitted to making this weekend.
Belgian classics are always a treat and this year’s Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kurnne was no different. The final 40-50km are flat enough for a sprint to be the default option to decide the race but the first ¾ of the route is difficult enough for a breakaway to form and survive if the peloton’s will to bring the race to a sprint finish isn’t strong.
That almost happened this year with Christophe Laporte and Taco van der Hoorn only being caught about 100 meters from the line. Fabio Jakobsen, once again, showed the world his sensational form to begin the season and avenged his team’s terrible performance the day before at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Caleb Ewan was second in a duel likely to be repeated at the Tour de France.
Arkea Samsic, curiously finished 3rd, 4th and 7th with Hugo Hofstetter, Daniel McLay and Amaury Capiot. I say curiously because they managed to keep the integrity of their “train” deep into the development of the sprint, but they never acted as team in terms of positioning or leadout. They say that if you have two quarterbacks you have none. I guess the same can be applied here. Although, putting three riders in the top-10 of an important classic is nothing to scoff at.