Australian Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) out-sprinted a split field up the steep Hatta Dam finish to capture the Stage 4 win at the UAE Tour on Wednesday.
With previous stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) frantically trying to regain touch with the front following a multi-rider crash inside the final seven kilometres, Ewan pounced to profit from the Spaniard's malaise.
Utilising superior power-to-weight (12.54W/kg), the diminutive 61-kilogram 24-year-old accelerated up the 250-metre climb with an average gradient of 10 per cent and max of 17 besting runner ups Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo) and race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) by two seconds each.
“I started the bottom of the climb in maybe third or fourth wheel, and I was in a good position from there and then I could start my sprint,” explained Ewan after the finish of the 197-kilometre fourth stage from Dubai’s ‘The Pointe’ in Palm Jumeirah to the jewel of the Hajar Mountains.
“There were not many sprinters there, I think that shows it was a hard race before the climb started,” he continued. “I was even tired before the climb started, but I knew I could do just one sprint to get up it and I felt good.”
Ewan battles to first win for Lotto Soudal on Stage 4
Despite finishing third, Roglic extended his lead another seven seconds over reigning world champion Valverde (+0:21) and current ‘best young rider’ David Gaudu (+0:38) of Groupama-FDJ.
“I felt the heat today but I was always well protected from the wind by my team-mates,” recounted Roglic. “Caleb Ewan was the strongest today. He won easily. I just wanted to go as fast as possible to the finish. Every day can be decisive, so I'll work on keeping the jersey with the team tomorrow before I make plans for Friday's uphill finish.”
Ewan: I knew this might be my best chance of a win
With the win, Ewan moves up six spots in the points classification behind current green jersey owner Stepan Kurianov (Gazprom-RusVelo).
The inaugural UAE Tour continues on Thursday with what should be another stellar opportunity for Ewan and the sprinters — 181km from Flag Island to Khor Fakkan.