Dubai: Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma clinched the inaugural UAE Tour title on Saturday, finishing ahead of Alejandro Valverde of Movistar Team at the top of the general classification.
The seventh and final 145km stage, which started from Dubai Safari Park and finished at City Walk, was won by Irishman Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe, who finished ahead of UAE Team Emirates’ Fernando Gaviria and Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal in an absorbing bunch sprint.
“It was windy from the start, but as a team we finished the job the same way we started. We showed again that we are a very strong team. It’s nice to have started with a Team Time Trial victory and kept the jersey till the end. As my first race of the year, it’s great to begin with a stage race victory. Results show that we’re ready for a promising season,” said a jubilant Roglic after lifting the 24kt gold-plated heptagonal trophy representing the union of the seven Emirates.
Roglic, who held on to the leader’s red jersey from Stage One, was certain of clinching the title after he won the sixth stage on Friday.
The 29-year-old had started the final day with a comfortable 31-second lead over Spaniard Valverde.
All Roglic needed to do was finish in the bunch, which his team ensured by safeguarding him through to the end of the stage. His lead remained intact and Valverde had to be content with second, while David Gaudu of Groupama-FDJ took third, a further 44 seconds behind.
UAE Team Emirates’ Dan Martin finished seventh in the General Classification, while teammates Diego Ulissi and Rui Costa were 15th and 17th respectively.
Stage winner Bennett, who scored a hat-trick of stage wins at last year’s Giro d’Italia, was elated with his effort. “I needed that. The team did a fantastic job again. I tried to fight for Gaviria’s wheel. Today I had the legs to finish it off. I knew if you could get a win here with all the top sprinters, it means you are not so bad.
“This is good for my confidence. I’m looking forward to the other nice races coming up,” he said.
Olympic Champion Elia Viviani of Deceuninck — Quick-Step won the green jersey for finishing at the top of the Points Classification. The Black Jersey for winning the Intermediate Sprint Classification was claimed by Russian Stephen Kuriyanov of Gazprom-Rusvelo while the White Jersey for the best young rider was won by David Gaudu.
Gaviria was given a good lead-out by teammate Alexander Kristoff, but Bennett, who had finished twice in the Top 10 in the earlier stages, timed his surge to perfection in the last 100 metres.
“It was a very difficult sprint with a lot of headwind. I tried to be covered until the final meters, but as soon as I started my sprint I realised that Bennett was stronger than me. The team did a great job for me again so I want to thank them for all their support this week,” said Gaviria, who had earlier provided UAE Team Emirates with a win on the second stage.
Kristoff, who was fourth to the line, said: “We had to work really hard to move up the bunch and pass a lot of other riders, which meant Fernando had to use a lot of energy to stay on my wheel. We had good speed, but Bennett managed to take Fernando’s wheel and got the same lead out benefits as him. I think in final meters he was just stronger.”