• Primoz Roglic signed on for a stage win and another day as the UAE Tour overall leader. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Primoz Roglic won the queen stage of the UAE Tour yesterday to all but seal the race title with a commanding performance on season debut.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
2 Mar 2019 - 5:32 AM  UPDATED 2 Mar 2019 - 9:45 AM

Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) outsprinted Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) on the Jebel Jais summit finish to cement his position overall, with today’s closer for sprinters.

The 29-year-old put 10 seconds into world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who suffered from a fever overnight but was still in the mix to hold onto second on GC.

Roglic has held the red leader’s jersey since the opening team time trial, which his squad won. Yesterday marked his first individual stage victory here after minor placings on days three and four. The former ski-jumper, after an enthusiastic victory salute, was embraced by teammates past the finish line, wedged between sheer rock faces and cold, low fog.

“I was just a little short all of the other times and finally I won. That’s why I was really, really happy,” he said.

A reduced group of about 15 riders contested the finish, with the main six-man escape of the day all swept up on the 20km climb to the top. Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) accelerated too early - before Dumoulin opened his sprint with 200m to go. Roglic appeared boxed-in but was able to come around the Dutchman.

“I’m not really a sprinter so I was a little afraid then to go at the side, to pass immediately. But still, I saw it’s quite far to the finish line and I had quite a lot of power left. I just braked and then I started again. It was enough to win,” he said.

Dumoulin was involved in a crash inside the first five kilometres of the 180km stage and revealed he considered abandoning the race thereafter. The Giro d’Italia and Tour de France runner-up laughed about his turnaround to place second. Dumoulin is also set to compete against Roglic at the Giro this year.

“I was in a crash after five kilometres and almost quit the race because I had a lot of problems with my leg, I overstretched it somehow in the crash,” he said. “I thought for about an hour of quitting, I thought it didn’t make any sense any more to continue, and then I got second at the end of the day. Luckily, I had a good go for it but Roglic was too strong. At least I confirmed that my shape is good.”

Martin misread the finish and started his sprint to the line 50m earlier than he’d anticipated, which proved costly.

“I thought it was 200m, and the sign says 250. That’s why I sat down and tried to get the other guys to go earlier than me so I could get back on the wheel, but I didn’t have the legs to go again. It was just a mistake,” he said.

“It wasn’t a typical 20km climb and we knew that before the start because we came to see it. It was pretty much big chainring the whole way up. The wind played a big part, with headwind stretches and tailwind stretches.”

Valverde wasn’t surprised by Roglic’s form or the way his team rallied around all week. The Spaniard finished the stage in fifth place, after also being caught in the crash Dumoulin was affected by.

“It was a really fast climb. I felt better than I expected because I had a weird night, with a fever, so I'm pretty content with how everything turned out,” Valverde said.

“My level was pretty good. I was lacking a little bit of a spark. It's been a beautiful race, but really demanding, with the wind. Today the sensations weren't bad because if they were, I wouldn't have been there. But nor were they where I would have liked them to be.”

Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) and Australian Simon Clarke (EF Education First) were notable abandons during the stage.