Belgian national champion Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) claimed his second victory at the UAE Tour this year, proving himself to be the fastest driver on stage six in Abu Dhabi.
The 30-year-old burst through the gap in the closing moments of the race, holding off Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and stage five winner Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla), who finished the day’s leading podium.
After the race, Merrill said: “It was a good day. It was really busy. Everyone was nervous because today was the last sprint, the last chance.
“For the last 500m, I found a good position and started again from far away,” he added. “Enough for today.”
British National Champion Mark Cavendish suffered mechanical problems in the final 2km and was unable to take part in the group sprint.
Despite temperatures hitting 33C, the wind never strengthened enough to force the echelons to line up, resulting in an unchanged overall standing ahead of Sunday’s final. World champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) retained the red leader’s jersey, nine seconds ahead of Ineos Grenadiers’ Luke Plapp.
“It’s special to take the lead on the last day,” Evenepoel told the media in Abu Dhabi. “We’re going to defend the jersey well and maybe, why not, try to get on stage again tomorrow.”
UAE Tour 2023, Stage 6: Warner Bros. World to Abu Dhabi Breakwater (166km)
1. Tim Merlier (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, 3-41-12
2. Sam Bennett (Ireland) Bora Hansgrohe
3. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jayco AlUla
4. Olav Kooij (below) Jumbo-Visma
5. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Movistar
6. Arvid de Kleijn (Ned) Tudor Pro Cycling
7. Sam Welsford (Australia) DSM Racing
8. Gerben Thijssen (Belgium) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty
9. Emīls Liepiņš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
10. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious, all same time
General classification after stage VI
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, in 16-14-28
2. Luke Plapp (Australia) Ineos Grenadiers, 9 points
3. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain victory, 13 seconds
4. Stefan de Bode (Zaf) EC Education-Easy Post, 1-03
5. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victory, 1-06
6. Team DSM Harm Vanhoucke (Belgium)
7. Andreas Leknessund (Norway) Team DSM, both 1-12
8. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar
9. Georg Steinhauser (Germany) EF Education-EasyPost, both 1-13
10. Adam Yates (Great Britain) Emirates Emirates, 1-14