Belgian cyclist Lennert Van Eetvelt emerges as shock winner of 2024 UAE Tour

UAE Team Emirates riders Jay Vine and Brandon McNulty fall short in dramatic final day

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Lennert Van Eetvelt kept the best for last to emerge as overall winner of the 2024 UAE Tour on the summit of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain on Sunday.

The Lotto Dstny team’s Belgian rider snatched the biggest victory of his career to win Stage 7 ahead of Spaniard Pello Bilbao and Australian Ben O’Connor and top the general classification standings in the sixth edition of the only WorldTour race in the Middle East.

Van Eetvelt attacked on the final slopes of Jebel Hafeet with 1.7 kilometres to go and finished clear of the chasing group that included several pre-race favourites.

Bilbao of Bahrain Victorious took second spot 22 seconds behind and O'Connor of Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team completed the podium.

In the GC standings, Van Eetvelt finished just two seconds clear of O'Connor, with Bilbao completing the podium at 11 seconds in arrears.

“Unbelievable, I cannot believe it. This morning, everyone was telling me just go for everything, try to win GC, you can do it and I was like 'come on guys we have to stay realistic. I'm still far behind, a lot of the world's best guys are still there',” said Van Eetvelt, who also took the white jersey for the best young rider.

“But this was the plan, this was what I had in my head and I cannot believe that I pulled it off.”

The UAE Team Emirates' hopes ended in disappointment. The home team came into the stage aiming to clinch the title through Jay Vine, the overnight GC leader, or Brandon McNulty, who sat in third place.

McNulty cracked on the final climb before Australian slipped out of contention soon after.

Van Eetvelt, 22, came into the final stage of this year's race sitting in ninth overall at 37 seconds adrift and few recognised the Belgian as a potential GC winner before the final climb began.

However, the young Belgian timed his move to perfection, allowing the likes of Bilbao and O'Connor to trade accelerations before latching on to a key attack with 2.1km to go.

Speaking later at the post-race conference, Van Eetvelt added: “My plan for today was to finish with no regret and I don’t have any regret now!

“I looked at the race last couple of years, where they went and I noticed the steeper part at three kilometres to go. That was the last chance to go for GC.

“My legs were really good today. This is by far my best result. I’ve improved a lot really. It’s a bit crazy that I win the UAE Tour thanks to time bonuses I took in a breakaway on Stage 5.

“It started with a joke with the doctor and it became a nice training ride that gave me six seconds and now I win the overall by two seconds.

“It’s crazy to see my name on the list of riders who have won this race after Remco Evenepoel, Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic. I came for a good result on GC, not for winning, so it’s just amazing. My next race Strade Bianche suits me well. I’m confident I can do a good result there too.”

Stage 7 results

1. Lennert Van Eetvelt (BEL) Lotto Dstny, 3hrs 38min 28sec.

2. Pello Bilbao (ESP) Bahrain Victorious, at 22sec.

3. Ben O'Connor (AUS) Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team, st.

General classification

1. Lennert Van Eetvelt (BEL) Lotto Dstny

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

3. Pello Bilbao (ESP) Bahrain Victorious, at 11sec.

Updated: February 25, 2024, 4:57 PM