How the race finished
Elisa Longo-Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) won the inaugural UAE Tour Women, after an impressive 1-2 on the Jebel Hafeet climb with teammate Gaia Realini. Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) shone in the sprint finishes, outsprinting former teammate Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) on two occasions, with Lorena also winning one stage, setting the scene for a great sprint duel this season.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
Stage One of the UAE Tour was our first opportunity in 2023 to see some new team and sprint train combinations in action. As not only the first stage of the inaugural UAE tour, a new addition to the Women’s World Tour, but the first northern hemisphere Women’s World Tour race of 2023, everything was to play for, and to prove.
On the pan-flat course earmarked for the sprinters, the flat roads through the sandy desert landscapes were ripe for wind-induced echelons and splits in the bunch. With no break allowed to go up the road, teams battled to keep their sprinters in contention. On the wide roads the nervous bunch stretched out and swelled again and again, and the stage was studded with bunch crashes. In one of the intermediate sprints, GC contender Liane Lippert (Movistar) picked up some precious bonus seconds.
It had all come back together for the finale, when two crashes, one after the other at 3.8km to go and just under 3km to go, caught up a significant number of riders. Included in those who went down at 3.8km to go was favourite Lorena Wiebes, making her debut for Team SD Worx – but the incredible sprinter was back on her bike and in position on her team’s lead out train in a flash. Movistar and SD Worx raced towards the final corner with Team DSM in the wings, Pfeiffer Georgi guiding sprinter Charlotte Kool out of the corner in perfect position. As Wiebes launched her sprint into the headwind Kool came up the inside, carrying enough speed to bring her alongside Wiebes, who jumped on her wheel but could not find an extra gear to come past. Kool flew to the win in the first head-to-head battle of the former teammates.
On paper, Stage Two looked similar to stage one, set to be a bunch sprint finish on pan flat, wide roads through the desert landscapes. But with cross-head winds whipping sand across the road, riders had to be attentive from the gun. The strongest teams put pressure on in the windy conditions, creating echelons that split the peloton into three very early on. The front group was the smallest, with teams SD Worx and DSM best represented, with four riders each. Longo-Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Persico (UAE Team ADQ) were the major GC contenders present, both keen to stay away and secure time gaps over their possible rivals ahead of the queen stage the following day. Surprisingly, FDJ-Suez and Jayco-AlUla both missed the front group completely, and were consigned to a very difficult day chasing behind to bring their leaders back into any contention for the stage win or GC hopes. The groups continuously split and reconfigured, and although the front bunch was eventually reabsorbed, a number of riders found themselves 30 seconds or further down in the GC rankings at the end of the day. The impressive lead out train of DSM led into the final corner, but Wiebes was piloted up the inside by Barbara Guarischi to take the win. Kool crossed the line in second, a reversal of stage one, with Ciara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) third for the second time in two days.
Stage Three looked set to be a different tactical game, as teams worked to keep their GC leaders out of trouble before launching them up the final 9km long Jebel Hafeet climb. But once again, the wide roads and cross winds in the desert would have other ideas. The stage started earnestly, with a more traditional breakaway of two riders allowed to jump off the front. A trio of riders pushed on through the first intermediate sprint to join them up the road, including Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon-Sram Racing), looking to secure her lead in the intermediate sprint classification. The peloton had seemed to be content to wait for the mountaintop finish, but as they turned into the cross-winds Trek-Segafredo, Team DSM and SD Worx began riding hard on the front, quickly stretching the bunch out and creating echelons. Once again, Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez) was caught out, and her whole team dropped back to try to bring her back. In the front, teams smelt blood and kept the pressure on, and the gap to the FDJ-Suez riders slowly stretched out. Coming into another second of cross-winds the peloton stretched out again, and suddenly a small group including Liane Lippert (Movistar) found themselves detached. Movistar worked hard to hold the peloton within sight, but were not able to bring Lippert back to the front before the climbers launched up Jebel Hafeet.
Kristen Faulker (Team Jayco AlUla) set a strong pace on the front at the base of the climb, and the peloton quickly reduced to around 30 riders. As the road wound upwards the gradient pitched up too. Gaia Realini, the newly signed climber for Trek-Segafredo, came to the front and picked the pace up another notch. With team leader and compatriot Elisa Longo-Borghini in her wheel, Realini wound away and gradually wore out the legs of each rider in the reduced bunch. The last rider to hang on to the Trek-Segafredo pair was Emsee Peperkamp (Team DSM), but the young climber was eventually dropped and then reeled back in by Mikayla Harvey, who rode a strong, steady pace up the climb with her team leader Silvia Persico. But it was Realini who shone brightest on the day, smiling to herself as she continued to power away on the front, towing Longo-Borghini up the last part of the climb to victory, with a gap of over a minute on the closest finisher.
With the GC completely recalibrated after the mountaintop finish, the teams went into Stage Four with tired legs, but looking for a final opportunity to get something out of the race. For the first time in the race, a break went clear for most of the stage. Petra Stiasny (Fenix-Deceuninck), Iris Monticolo (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) and Aileen Schweikart (Laboral Kutxa-Fundación Euskadi) worked strongly together, rolling through until they were eventually reabsorbed into the peloton 14 km from the finish line. As they were caught, the riders turned onto a large, exposed bridge section over a water channel, and Liane Lippert launched a counter-attack, catching everyone by surprise. With teammate Emma Norsegaard by her side, the pair put their heads down to try to establish a gap, forcing Elisa Longo-Borghini out of her saddle to chase behind. It was DSM that managed to lead the peloton back to the pair, setting up for another sprint finish.
FDJ-Suez and Movistar lead through the final kilometers, battling it out on the front into a key left hand turn at just over 1km before the finish line. Faced with a block head wind, the lead-out trains seemed to dissipate, and sprinters found themselves on the front earlier than they wanted to be. Realising sprinter Charlotte Kool was no longer on her wheel, Pfeiffer Georgi eased off on the front and Lorena Wiebes was forced to launch early. As riders behind her fell backwards a gap opened up and Charlotte Kool, who had been waiting patiently, found her way through it. Taking half a moment as she came across to Wiebes’ wheel, Kool put in a final push towards the line to the win. Behind her, Ciara Consonni followed the same line to also just pip Wiebes for second on the stage.
With the bunch rolling in more or less together, Stage Four saw no changes at the top of the GC classification. Elisa Longo-Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) took home the overall win, with teammate Gaia Realini in second and taking home the best young riders jersey. Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) finished in third. Alongside her two stage wins, Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) also took home the green points jersey, while the intermediate sprint jersey was won by Agnieska Skalniak-Sòjka (Canyon Sram Racing).
Overall GC Results
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