photo credits @ WTFK
Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) powered to victory in stage 6 of the UAE Tour in Abu Dhabi today, after the Belgian rider fended-off challenges from Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Alula) to claim his second stage win in this year’s race
“It was another hectic finish today but I was put into a great position with 500 meters to go and then went for a long sprint. Thankfully I was able to hold on and I am happy to win in the Green Jersey,” Merlier said.
“Today was a good one. It was hectic. Everyone was so nervous because it was the last sprint, the last opportunity I think, and it was really dangerous. In the last 500 meters, I found the good spot and I went again from far out. Today it was enough.”
“We did a recon of the stage and we knew before it was going to be really hectic, like the last days again. But we found a good way and you need a bit of luck here.”
Meanwhile, Merlier’s Soudal-QuickStep teammate Remco Evenepoel finished safely in the peloton and he remains in the overall lead ahead of the testing mountaintop finale on Jebel Hafeet on Sunday.
The Belgian carries a lead of nine seconds over Luke Plapp of Ineos Grenaders, with Pello Bilbao of Bahrain Victorious in third overall at 13 seconds.
“The morale in the team is very high after achieving our third stage win of the race,” Evenepoel said.
“There is a very high standard of sprinters here so it’s special for Tim as well to claim his second victory, and it was great to see him celebrate in the Green Jersey.
“I managed to stay out of trouble during the whole stage and even pull a bit before the sprint and I am focused on tomorrow now. It is an important one for me and I would very much like to defend this Red Jersey and win this race.”
Soon after the flag drop, a three-man breakaway formed – made up of intermediate sprints classification leader Edward Planckaert (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Samuele Zoccarato (Grean Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) and former US national champion Larry Warbasse (AG2R Citroën) – but was kept on a tight leash by the peloton.
The trio were reeled in with 5km to go, before the sprint trains took charge on the wide run-in to the line.
Hoping to set up a second successive win for Groenewegen, Jayco AlUla led the bunch through sweeping right-hand bend onto the finishing straight. There, as the road veered slightly to the left, Merlier found a gap on the inside and accelerated through to the front.
Only Bennett was able to follow the green jersey wearer’s wheel, but the Irishman couldn’t muster the speed to come around him.
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