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World and Vuelta a Espana champion Remco Evenepoel began his season on a high with success in the UAE Tour after following home stage winner Adam Yates in Sunday’s finish.
As leader of the home side British rider Yates went all out, attacking the 10-kilometre climb up Jebel Hafeet with its demanding 6.6 percent gradient and later saying he had nothing to lose.
Quick-Step’s 23-year-old star rider Evenepoel was initially caught out by the UAE Team leader’s tactic of all out assault, but ended by holding out for a clear overall win.
The Belgian managed to limit the damage having started the day with a slender nine-second cushion in the general classification, and ended with a wide 59sec win.
“The pace was insane from the bottom to the top,” Evenepoel said.
“I thought he (Yates) would stay on my wheel until the final kilometers, but then he attacked I had to go over my limit,” explained the man tipped to win the Giro this season.
Evenepoel crossed the line 10sec behind Yates to take the race win having led since Tuesday’s time-trial.
“Seeing him all the time reassured me of the overall win,” Evenepoel said.
– I can hardly breathe –
Yates was exhausted but delighted to have redeemed his team in the absence of Tadej Pogacar, winner of the last two editions here.
“As you can see I can hardly breathe and just about speak. It’s 38 degrees out there.
“To be honest I felt sick so thanks to the people who poured water on me from the side of the road.
“I really had to win, thanks to the team again for trusting me,” said Yates, who joined UAE from Ineos during the winter break.
Ineos Grenadier’s 22-year-old Australian rider Luke Plapp was second overall.
He came in sixth on the stage but his result deprived Yates of second on the overall podium by just one second.
Geoffrey Bouchard rode to third in the 153km final stage.
Belgian Champion Tim Merlier also of Soudal Quick-Step took home the green jersey – the first time in his career that he won the points classification in a World Tour race.
“We can be proud of what we achieved this week. We were in the mix every time,” said Merlier, who relaced Mark Cavendish at the Belgian team.
Veteran British sprinter Cavendish had a UAE Tour to forget as he failed to make an impact with new team Astana.