Tim Merlier stamps his class as a sprinter with third stage win in UAE Tour

UAE Team Emirates’ Jay Vine retains his overall lead after Stage 6 as the race heads to final leg on Jebel Hafeet

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Tim Merlier underlined his status as the fastest man in the UAE Tour by winning his third sprint in the penultimate stage in the Middle East’s only WorldTour race on Saturday.

It could have been a clean sweep of the four sprints for the Soudal Quick-Step rider had he not been beaten by Visma Lease A Bike’s Olav Kooij in a photo finish in Stage 5 the other day.

Merlier stormed to the front from a difficult position to clinch Stage 6 from Arvid De Kleijn (Tudor Pro Cycling) and Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), second and third respectively, to add to his victories in Stage 1 and Stage 4.

“Everything went perfect today with the team,” Merlier said at the finish of the 138-kilometre Abu Dhabi stage from Louvre to the Breakwater.

“We are where we want to be and I can go with my sprint where I want to go. Perfect week for us.”

Merlier appeared to be slightly boxed-in with around five riders still ahead of him with about 100 metres to the finishing line.

The Belgian had to launch his sprint early to move up, but once he reached full speed, he was unmatched, coming through a small gap on the right-hand side of the road to take his third victory of the tour.

“They brought me really good until about 1.5km to go, and then Bert [Van Lerberghe] wanted to go really early, but then he slowed down a bit and then it was all or nothing,” Merlier said.

“If you do that you can be boxed in, but it didn’t happen, and I went from a good spot. It’s a perfect week here. Yesterday was a close one, but it’s nicer to have a nice picture of it.”

The UAE Team Emirates’ Jay Vine finished safely in the bunch and will take the overall leaders' red jersey into the final stage and the summit finish on Jebel Hafeet on Sunday.

“I didn’t see any dangerous point today really. It reminded me of not so long ago when I was commuting by bike to go to work in Australia,” the Australian said at the post-race conference.

“You got that feeling of riding through red lights it was very cool to have a look at the buildings and stuff. Today was not super hard, but it’s going to be a big day tomorrow.

“I’ll have to consume about 4,000 calories, maybe a bit more, so I had to do fuelling today for tomorrow, on the bike, after race and this evening, just to keep my stomach okay.

“It shouldn’t be all up to us. We have some good riders. Mikkel (Bjerg-his teammate) is really strong. To have him as far as possible up the climb with us will be useful.

“It’s also probably going to be the hottest day of the week tomorrow. It’ll be about responding, not losing time. As long as I keep (another teammate Brandon) McNulty’s wheel in front of mine, it should be fine.”

Stage 6 results

1. Tim Merlier (BEL) Soudal Quick-Step, 3hrs 2min 14sec.

2. Arvid De Kleijn (NED) Tudor Pro Cycling Team, st.

3. Phil Bauhaus (GER) Bahrain Victorious, st.

General classification

1. Jay Vine (AUS) UAE Team Emirates

2. Ben O’Connor (AUS) Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team, at 11sec.

3. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 13sec.

Updated: February 25, 2024, 4:13 AM