Stage 5) Al Ain - Jebel Hafeet
UAE Tour: Knox impresses in the break
A classic stage that had featured regularly on the former Abu Dhabi Tour, day five of the UAE Tour offered a familiar route around Al Ain taking in many of the symbolic places up to Green Mubazzarah where the final climb of Jebel Hafeet awaited the riders for the second time this week. Just like on the previous stage that visited the 10.8km mountain, we were represented in the break, this time by James Knox, who slipped up the road together with four other riders.
The five showed a lot of determination and built enough of a lead (six minutes) to put some pressure on the peloton, at one point their buffer looking hefty enough to bring hope they could fight for the win. Unfortunately for them, several skirmishes between the GC teams in the crosswinds – although they failed to materialise – reduced that gap to just two minutes at the bottom of Jebel Hafeet.
On the very first slopes, the 24-year-old Brit rose out of the saddle and dropped his breakaway companions, surging ahead and climbing with impressive fluidity on the winding ascent, 48 hours after suffering on the same climb because of the extreme heat. It took a series of powerful attacks from behind for James to be caught with just three kilometers to go by a reduced group, from where Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) took the victory.
Shortly after catching his breath at the finish, where he arrived not far outside the top 10, James took us through the difficult stage 5: “We discussed about what we should do today, especially as we knew we would get some freedom after losing time on the first summit finish. I went into the break, but it wasn’t easy, as we fought hard to keep the bunch behind and the speed was quite high. The climb was relentless, but I gave it a go anyway, and even when the GC guys came across, I tried to stay there, but I was cooked and didn’t have the legs to remain with them anymore. But, overall, it was a nice day.”
Photo credit: ©Justin Setterfield / Getty Images