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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 27 February 2021

Tadej Pogacar performs 'better than expected' to take UAE Tour overall lead

Filippo Ganna of Ineos Grenadiers wins stage two on Monday

Filippo Ganna of Ineos Grenadiers won stage two of the UAE Tour but a fourth place finish for Tadej Pogacar was enough to put the UAE Team Emirates rider on the General Classification leaderboard.

Pogacar will wear the GC leader’s Red Jersey in Tuesday’s Stage 3, a 179-kilometre route starting from the UAE University and finishing on top of Jebel Hafeet.

“I'm really happy with my performance today,” Pogacar, the reigning Tour de France champion, said.

“The wind was quite strong in the end, but I did my best and got a really good time. I knew my capabilities and performed even better than expected if I’m honest.

“We’ll take things day by day but we’re happy to take the leaders’ jersey and will defend it until the end. We’re optimistic and I’m really happy.”

Occupying the next two spots behind Pogacar in the GC are Deceuninck-Quickstep’s pair Joao Almeida and Mattia Cattaneo, followed by Jumbo-Visma’s Chris Harper and the defending champion Adam Yates of Ineos Grenadiers.

Pogacar holds a six-second lead over Almeida in the GC. Matteo is a further 18 seconds down in third while Yates has 39 seconds to make up in fifth in the only WorldTour race in the Middle East.

“It didn’t matter before the start how good Almeida would do, I just concentrated on myself and did the best I could,” Pogacar said.

“It was a really good performance from my side. Five seconds isn’t much of an advantage. I am defending, he is attacking so it’s better for me to control but we will see; there are still five stages to go.

“Tomorrow is the hardest mountain finish, so I hope I have the best legs. It’s a bit of an advantage that I know the route but if you have good power on the climb it doesn’t really matter if you know every metre. In the end, the best rider will be the first to the top.”

Meanwhile, Ganna’s Stage 2 victory on the 13km track at Al Hudayriat Island in Abu Dhabi on Monday stretched his time trial victories to eight in a row.

The Italian's time of 13 minutes and 56 seconds, at an average of 55.981kph, was far beyond the reach of his challengers.

Stefan Bissegger of EF Education-Nippo was 14 seconds behind in second and UAE Team Emirates' Swiss rider Mikkel Bjerg was a further seven seconds back in third.

“It's never easy to win a time trial even if you do it with good legs and a strong focus,” Ganna said.

“Luckily my body was ready for this effort today. It's a fantastic result for me and for the team. It was a bit strange to ride in the desert and it's my first time at the UAE Tour. It's hard to ride at 55 or 56kph but I'm really happy.

“Every race is hard because everyone arrives with focus and good legs. This is a fantastic result for me and the team. Every TT is a test for me and I try to arrive better and better.”

Published: February 22, 2021 07:21 PM

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