With one more mountain stage to come, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) increased his lead at the top of the overall standings of the UAE Tour. The steep finish up to the edge of Hatta Dam seemed like a day for second-placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to eat into Roglic’s deficit, but instead, the Slovenian added seven seconds to his overall advantage after stage 4.
Roglic was the first of the overall contenders to make it to the top of Hatta Dam, finishing two seconds behind the stage winner Caleb Ewan and in the same time as Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segfredo). For his efforts, Roglic took four bonus seconds for third place, in addition to the three seconds he gained on Valverde on the climb itself, increasing his lead to 21 seconds over the Spaniard.
“For me, I wanted to go as fast as possible to the finish,” Roglic told Cyclingnews. “It’s different than when you look at it on the video. When you google it, you know the rest but when you do the right turn and see it, it’s really steep at the finish.
“For sure the strongest was Caleb Ewan because he won really easily, he was really fast.”
A long, hot day the UAE desert
The fourth stage was also the longest of the week with the mercury sitting higher in the thermometer than it had been in recent days. Big gusts of wind and two crashes, one which eliminated Remco Evenepoel, made it a more complicated day in the saddle than Roglic had anticipated when he arrived at the Pointe on the Palm Jumeirah earlier in the day.
“It was a hard day with some big winds, which were unexpected. I thought that it would be a bit less wind but suddenly there was quite a lot of wind and a sandstorm or something,” Roglic explained. “It was hard and really hot, I think. If it is so hot here in the winter, I cannot imagine what it is like in the summer.
“The guys did a perfect job, I was protected all the time from the wind and also from the crashes. I didn’t really see it, but in the end, I just heard behind some crashes happening. Luckily, we were in the front and protected.”
There are three stages left for Roglic to defend his leader’s jersey, which he’s held since the start of the race. Stages 5 and 7 are for the sprinters, though the crosswinds could be a danger point, but it is stage 6 to Jebel Jais that will be his hardest challenge.
“What can I say, it will be a hard day again. It’s a new final for me, I’ve never done that climb. First, we have tomorrow,” he said.
“Every day can be decisive, and you really have to stay focused and try to keep the jersey until the end.”