Primož Roglič said he had ‘a lot of power left’ to sprint as he approached the final summit of the UAE Tour.
The Jumbo-Visma rider took victory in the leader’s jersey on the penultimate stage, as the race hit the top of the untested Jebel Jais mountain.
Roglič outsprinted his general classification rivals after the 20km climb on stage six, securing overall victory heading into the final day.
Speaking after the stage, the 29-year-old said: “I’m not really a sprinter, so I was afraid to go around the side to pass but still I saw it was a long way to the finish line and I had a lot of power left. Then I started again and it was enough to win.
“I think it’s always nice to win a race. I’ve been a little short a few times and finally I won, that’s why I was really happy.”
Jebel Jais has never featured in a race before, but the long steady ascent had been tested beforehand by the likes of Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
But after Martin attacked too early, it was Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) who made the first dash for the line.
Roglič was able to pass the Dutchman at the line in a thrilling uphill sprint.
The Slovenian leads the GC by 21 seconds heading into the final flat stage around Dubai on the day seven.
Roglič added: “You never know how you will start your first race but if you can win it, it’s always nice.
“If you can start like that, it’s bigger motivation for all the guys and all the staff.
“We can still work hard and try to improve.”
Jumbo-Visma put Roglič into the leader’s jersey on stage one, winning the team time trial by seven seconds over Dumoulin.
The team and their leader have been unshakeable all week in the Middle East, all but securing victory for Roglič in his first race of the season.
He now looks to the Giro d’Italia, his main target for 2019.