UAE Team Emirates' star rider Tadej Pogacar won the seventh and final stage of the UAE Tour atop Jebel Hafeet to retain his crown in the only WorldTour race in the Middle East on Saturday.
The final stage of the UAE Tour 2022 was almost a repeat of the race 12 months ago with Pogacar overcoming a gritty challenge from Ineos Grenadiers rider Adam Yates.
The Briton made a valiant effort in the final five kilometres of the steep mountain climb but Pogacar had enough left in the tank to produce a final burst of speed and flash past the finish line first, sealing the overall honours.
Yates finished second while Pello Bilbao of Bahrain-Victorious was third just a handful of seconds behind the leading pair.
Pogacar won the first of the two mountain stages at the summit of Jebel Jais and never looked back, retaining the overall leader’s red jersey in the fourth edition of the UAE Tour.
The two-time Tour de France winner won the overall race by 22 seconds ahead of Yates, while Bilbao finished third 48 seconds back.
“It’s really important, a really big goal for us as a team,” Pogacar said after the win.
“It’s the first race of the season but for us it’s one of the most important races so I’m super proud and happy.”
It was the third year that Pogacar won the stage at Jebel Hafeet, but he had to withstand a blistering attack by Yates inside the final kilometre.
“I was in the [overall] lead ahead of him so I didn’t need to attack, I just had to follow,” he said of the challenge up to the mountain top.
“We all know his attacks are one of the best in the world. At one moment I was really suffering but luckily Adam also slowed down a bit, so it went all perfect for me.
“I’m so happy to take the win here for the third time. I guess it suits me well, it’s a really hard climb but then in the end there’s a bit of tactical play always.”
Pogacar went into the final stage of the race with a four-second overall lead ahead of Filippo Ganna of Ineos Grenadiers.
However, his challenge on the final climb was likely to come from Aleksandr Vlasov (BORA – Hansgrohe) who sat 14 seconds back overall and Yates, who was a further three seconds behind.
"In the final, with Joao Almeida in the leading group, we set ourselves the goal of winning the stage, so Joao also tried to take advantage of his good condition to attack and get the win.
“However, Yates was on a great day and yolk him back: at that point, I concentrated on following him and winning the sprint .
“We found ourselves in a similar situation to last year, although I struggled to stay with Adam: his attacks are among the best in the world of cycling, so I’m happy I was able to follow him and get the jump on him in the sprint."
Pogacar had more reasons to celebrate as he was presented with his golden visa, along with Team Principal Mauro Gianetti, for their contribution to sport in the UAE.
They were presented their visas by Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan and Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, on the podium at Jebel Hafeet.