Amber Kraak (FDJ-Suez) spoiled the sprinter’s party on the final day of the UAE Tour Women in Abu Dhabi, going solo from the day’s breakaway to hang on and take out the stage win.
The Dutchwoman was the final survivor from the day’s four-woman break, and proved to have the strongest legs of the group heading into the final kilometres on the pan-flat 105km stage.
Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime) came closest to catching Kraak, just falling short after launching her sprint with Kraak in sight. Behind her, Daria Pikulik (Human Powered Health) rounded out the podium, while SD Worx did at least have the overall win to celebrate thanks to Lotte Kopecky, despite missing out on a clean sweep of stage wins at the race.
“I heard my teammates and team car in the radio saying ‘Go go go’ so I knew it was really tight and I didn’t dare to celebrate or look back,” Kraak said after the win. “Besides the TTT in the Vuelta last year, it’s my first solo victory in the WorldTour. I’m not really used to it so maybe next time I’ll celebrate with my arms in the air.
“When I saw the three girls go, I was like ‘Yeah, we’re going to try it today’. When we had three minutes I was like ‘OK, if this group really works together then maybe we can make it because three girls and they’d only have three behind to close it.
“I thought that maybe we could go with this group to the finish. I actually wanted to wait for the sprint but when the others stopped riding I thought ‘Yeah, let’s go’.”
How it unfolded
On the final stage, the peloton was racing through the cityscape of the UAE capital. Starting at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the riders covered 105 km crossing from island to island before finishing on the Abu Dhabi Breakwater, just down the road from the ‘Big Flag’.
After a few unsuccessful attacks, Sophie Wright (Fenix-Deceuninck) initiated the break of the day, taking Monica Greenwood (Team Coop-Repsol) and Margarita Misyurina (Tashkent City Women) with her. Amber Kraak (FDJ-SUEZ) bridged up to them, and the four riders gradually built an advantage of just over three minutes.
The first intermediate sprint on the Yas Marina Circuit was won by Greenwood ahead of Wright, Kraak, and Misyurina, and the break went through the second sprint point at the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi in the exact same order. This brought Greenwood up to 16 points, but also secured the black intermediate sprint jersey for Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) who had collected 17 points in the first three days.
Misyurina dropped back from the break with cramps 22km from the finish, leaving the other three escapees to venture on. The chase work was left to SD Worx-Protime who did not get any help from the other teams, and the breakaway still held a two-minute advantage going into the final 20km.
The time gap continued to ebb away as the riders raced towards the race finale, though not as quick as the peloton and the sprinters within would have liked.
Heading into the final 10km and with SD Worx-Protime and DSM-Firmenich PostNL still leading the chase, the break’s advantage held steady at a minute. Over the next 5km, only 15 more seconds ticked off while up front the break split apart under the high pace.
Greenwood was the first to drop back as Kraak drove the group, with the Dutchwoman continuing to push on into the final 5km and distance Wright in the process.
Kraak was still 35 seconds up heading into the final 3km, by which time Uno-X Mobility and UAE Team ADQ had joined the fray at the head of the peloton. The seconds kept slipping away as Kraak battled on, still holding 20 seconds as she passed the flamme rouge.
Carina Schrempf (Alpecin-Deceuninck) briefly but unsuccessfully struck out from the peloton solo in the final kilometre, while a sizeable group of riders from the group also went down in a late crash.
Up front, however, Kraak persevered to the line, just about hanging on to hold off the charging sprinters, with Wiebes once again proving to be the quickest woman in the peloton – even if she didn’t grab a third stage victory.
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