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Mezgec sprints to fifth up Hatta Dam on stage four of UAE Tour

Wed 27 Feb 2019

Slovenian Luka Mezgec sprinted to fifth place on the painfully steep Hatta Dam after another tense day affected by crosswinds in the desert at the UAE Tour.

After earlier splits and a crash in the final 6km, the stage came down to the final ascent to the line. Mezgec was brought into position by his Mitchelton-SCOTT teammates with veteran Michael Albasini dropping him off inside the final kilometre for the sprint finish.

The Break of the Day:
After the first categorised climb of the race on stage three, the peloton were greeted with a rolling profile on stage four, with a number of ramps in the last 40km including the steep incline to the Hatta Dam finish line.

Six riders quickly established the day’s break as the pack rolled out of Palm Jumeirah and they opened up a maximum advantage of eight minutes, while the GC teams sat on the front of the bunch keeping the gap in order.

As with any stage in the desert, there was a constant threat of crosswinds and with 75km Bahrain-Merida moved to the head of the peloton in an attempt to split the field as the wind speed increased.

Their attempts eventually came to nothing, but the activity at front of the bunch meant the gap to the breakaway was almost halved. Crosswinds struck again with 50km to go and this time gaps appeared in the peloton, but the split was short lived as the race reached the hills and cover from the open roads.

Fight for position:
The race reset with 30km to go as the peloton set about bringing back the breakaway and setting themselves up for finale at Hatta Dam.

With a lull in pace at the front of the bunch on one of the rolling hills, Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) launched an attack. The Dutchman soon brought back the remnants of the breakaway but was eventually caught himself with 5km to go.

A crash in the pack saw a number of riders go down and several more caught up, including stage three winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), while the fight for position into the bottom of the Hatta Dam was tense as riders navigated the winding roads to the foot of the steep incline to the finish.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) was the first rider to make a move and the Australian held on to take the win while Mezgec battled the 17% gradient to come home in a hard-fought fifth.

Luka Mezgec:
"The wind wasn’t a big factor today, even tough it made for some stress at one point of the race when some split appeared, but it wan't like yesterday."
 
"I felt good going into the final and I had really good legs in the finishing climb, but I was a bit too far back in that last corner to make more of it."

"We had a good number of teammates in the last 3km, but unfortunately we didn’t use that advantage more, so I was stuck few wheels too far back."

"But throughout the day the boys were riding very well to save me some energy for the final and my legs were good, so we can take these positive thoughts going in to the next stages."

UAE Tour – Stage 4 Results:
1. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 4:27:07
2. Matteo Moschetti (Trek - Segafredo) 0:02
3. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo Visma) 0:02
5. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 0:05

UAE Tour – General Classification after Stage 4:
1. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) 14:05:10
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) +0:21
3. David Gaudu (Groupama FDJ) +0:38
19. Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +02:02

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

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