Dylan Groenewegen outperformed the best of sprinters to claim win in Stage 4 of the UAE Tour 2020. Towards the end of the 173-km stretch spread across Dubai, Groenewegen was challenged by Sam Bennett and his Deceuninck-QuickStep and Team Emirates’ Fernando Gaviria, but the Dutchman sailed clear of the two racers to emerge victorious in a pulsating bunch sprint.

Adam Yates, who a day ago, secured a record finish at Jebel Hafeet had a rather non-adventurous day but retains the Red jersey, while winner of the first stage Pascal Ackerman took the third spot, along with Gaviria at second.

“This one is really nice, all the sprinters are here, including myself,” Groenewegen said shortly after crossing the finish line.

“The first day I was not in the best position to make the sprint, but we saw that the speed was really good. So today was a little bit different. In the last corner, I was in really good position and we took the win so that’s really nice. The team did a very good job in the last 3k. We made a move there. They did a really strong lead-out to bring me to the last corner. Then I was on the wheel of Bennett and, yeah, it was a good position.”

With the flat stage returning the first time since the Hatta Dam finish, this was a race out and out for the sprinters, and yet, there was a strong chance that the end may not witness a bunch sprint. Will Clarke, who was part of the early breakaway with Veljko Stojnic, really threatened to move ahead in the final 30 kms.

In between, there was a crash at the 100 km mark, which took down Stage 2 winner Caleb Ewan but the Australian joined back the peloton, unhurt much. With the cross-wind factor playing a role, and the desert storm making it even worse, the young Stojnic, after extending his lead in the intermediate sprints classifications decided to step back and allow Clarke to get ahead, which opened a two-minute lead.

Clarke’s teammates ensured the pace of the peloton dropped, allowing him to surge ahead with a lead of more than a minute. As the rest of the teams were content not chasing him, Quick-Step – with two representatives – and Jumbo-Visma took over, leaving Clarke behind with about 8kms to go. James Knox stayed front. The battle soon turned to Knox and Jumbo Visma, with the latter seizing control, only to lose the advantage to Mitchelton-Scott.

Another crash in the peloton saw the Lotto Soudal duo of Adam Hansen and Steff Cras among the fallers. Hansen quickly remounted, but Cras was on his feet getting assessed by his team doctor on the roadside. There were some abrupt changes of direction in the finale and some wind around the afternoon, increased to the tension of the peloton as the sprinters’ teams scrambled for position near the front.

As the final left turn was taken, it still did not favour Groenewegen, with Gaviria and Bennett, but since the British ride rode too far out, Groenewegen fired past him into the finish line, who was crammed for room, allowing Gaviria and Ackerman to cross the line before him.

“The sprint today went much better than the first one at the UAE Tour. It made it a really nice win. My plan for this year is to win as many races as possible. The Giro d’Italia will be very important for me. I hope to win a couple of stages in my first participation,” Groenewegen said during the post-match ceremony.

Stage 5 marks a return to Jebel Hafeet as finishing line and will determine the overall classification. Yates, who still holds the overall lead with his stellar finish at Jebel Hafeet, will be fancying his chances in a race that will all but likely determine the winner of the UAE Tour 2020.

“The time difference is never enough but I’m in a good condition and this climb [Jebel Hafeet] suits me as everyone realised yesterday,” Yates said after the finish. “I hope to have the same legs tomorrow. Training is different to racing. I got confirmation that my training has been good for my first block of racing from here until the Tour of the Basque Country. Later I’ll target the Tour de France and the Olympics”