Juan Sebastian Morano (Emirates) saved a disappointing game for the hosts with a sprint win on the fourth stage of the Tour of the Emirates.
The Colombian won the bike race on Thursday, timing his sprint perfectly to overtake Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) and Sam Welsford (DSM).
The high-speed sprint meets a headwind, which means timing is everything at the finish line. Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) and Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) started early only to be eliminated in the final 100 metres.
It meant a fourth-chance win for Emirates Emirates, an important result for their home game, and more importantly Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) had a clear advantage over their leader Adam Yates. The past two editions have been won by Tadej Pogačar of the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s a great victory for me and a great victory for the team,” Morano said on Thursday. “I’m very happy for the team and the country. Thanks to all the team and drivers. Pascal was a good sprinter and now he’s gone because it’s better for me. My chance here is even better for me. Important, for the team.”
The UAE tour is for the sprinters, which is why the Middle East race has such a roster; there are two flat days ahead. Many big names failed to challenge in the final, including fifth-placed Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla), and others including Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), Merlier, Gaviria and Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan).
By rounding Welsford and Kooij in the final meters of the stage, Morano found a way through the chaos of the sprint that some of his more successful peers in the peloton avoided.
The bunch finish came after a rather ordinary flat stage in the UAE, with the trio parting ways and comfortably dominated for much of the day by a peloton who knew they were always sprinting.
Samuele Zoccarato joined Alessandro Tonelli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) and Alex Baudin (AG2R Citroën) for the day’s race, dodging the peloton with just one kilometer to go before getting caught by the catch up. Despite receiving the ball so close to the end, the trio never looked challenging.
The sprint finish looks like another photo finish, just like what happened at the opening ceremony Merlier narrowly beats Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny), but Morano is almost a clear winner.
Evenepoel holds the lead in the overall standings, just behind Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers).