The volatas already have an owner in the East. No one has sprinted like Tim Merlier (Quick-Step) this week. The portentous Belgian signed his second victory on the UAE Tour this Sunday, which will be decided tomorrow. The fearsome Jebel Hafeet (10.7 km at 6.8%), with Remco Evenepoel starting from the leader and Pello Bilbao 13 seconds behind, will pass the sentence. Today, Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco), yesterday’s winner, faced the drop zone at the front of the pack, with the entire airfield clear. Merlier, however, left him little room to fantasize about the finish line. Powerful, he accelerated to the left to find the only gap possible and leave one’s own behind Groenewegen (third) and Sam Bennett (Bora), who came from behind to finish second. He gave her time to look back, for a millisecond, and she became aware that victory was hers. The 26th of his record. In another jumbled sprint, elbowing, but in the clearest of these days. This time, the green jersey did not need the ‘photo finish’.
It was the expected outcome for a day without mountainous difficulties and completely flat, a showcase to show the economic power of the Emirates. Throughout its 166 kilometres, the peloton traveled through the Yas Marina circuit, home of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2009. Also through the Etihad Arena, a fully covered stadium inaugurated in 2021 with a capacity for 18,000 spectators. The stage, without going any further, started from Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, the largest indoor theme park in the world. Right there, next to Tweety, Bugs Bunny or Batman, the getaway of the day was formed. Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani), Larry Warbasse (Ag2r) and Edward Planckaert (Alpecin) tried to disguise themselves as superheroes in an impossible mission; Movistar, Jayco, Quick-Step and Jumbo, on the other side of the scale, began to control the times.
The script was kept until the end. The clock came to grant just over three minutes for the escape, always within range. Without excessively increasing the pace, either because of the race situation or because of the scorching heat, their adventure ended five kilometers from the end, time to go out dancing. “The sprint was really hectic, everyone was very nervous because it was the last one and it was really dangerous. In the last 500 metres, I found a good position and started again from a long distance. Today was enough”, analyzed Merlier. “Really, it wasn’t the plan for me to shoot, but I had speed in my legs so I was able to carry the guys and then with 1.5 to go I pulled away and was able to get there with no scares.” added, for his part, Evenepoel, as ambitious as usual. “We are going to try to defend this jersey (the leader’s) very well and, perhaps, we will try to go for the stage again,” he announced. He wants it all.
Classification | Stage 6
1st Tim Merlier (Bél/Quick-Step) – 3:41.12
2nd Sam Bennett (Irl/Bora) – mt
3rd Dylan Groenewegen (Hol/Jayco) – mt
Classification | General
1st Remco Evenepoel (Bél/Quick-Step) – 19:55.40
2nd Lucas Plapp (Aus/Ineos) – at 0:09
3º Pello Bilbao (Span/Bahrain) – 0:13
4th Stefan de Bod (Rsa/EF) – 1:03
5th Wout Poels (Hol/Bahrain) – 1:06