Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was the first to launch his sprint at the foot of the 17 per cent max gradient ramp, hitting the front with Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) pinned to his wheel.
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But with 300 metres to the line, it was a long stretch for the heavier sprinter Bennett, who lost his momentum in the final few metres, as Ewan powered past to take victory, following up on his Hatta Dam victory from last year.
Pascal Ackermann was dropped in the final, handing his race lead over to Ewan in the process.
How it happened
Stage two of the 2020 UAE Tour featured a revamped course for the familiar Hatta Dam stage, with organisers adding in more climbing over the 168km run before the finish.
Starting in nearby Hatta, the peloton raced out towards Gulf of Oman over lumpy terrain before heading back to the dam.
The final climb is only 600 metres long at an average gradient of seven per cent, but it is that maximum gradient that decides the winner and saw Caleb Ewan take victory on stage four last year.
Only two riders committed to the day’s breakaway, Leonardo Totomasi and Veljko Stojnič, both from Vini Zabù-KTM, as most teams were committed to the final climb.
The escapees built up an advantage of more than three minutes before the peloton began to close them down and with 50km to race the gap was down under two minutes, as Stojnič sat up to leave his team-mate alone.
Tortomasi was finally swept up with around 25km to the line, with undulating terrain left to navigate.
The race then started to unfold on an uncategorised climb with around 10km to race, as Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling) launched an attack off the front of the bunch and was followed by Nicola Conci (Trek-Segafredo).
With that injection of pace there were plenty of casualties, as Mark Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Chris Froome (Team Ineos) were dropped from the bunch, while Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) also let his narrow grasp on the leader’s jersey slip away as he sat up.
Conci and Campenaerts were caught before the final ramp, as Lotto-Soudal led the peloton for Ewan.
As the race hit the foot of the climb with around 300 metres to race, Bennett took the inside line and swept past Ewan to launch his sprint, but as the gradient ramped up the Australian was able to catch Bennett and wait on his wheel.
With 50m to go Bennett began to slow while Ewan upped his pace, when the Irishman’s effort collapsed and Ewan went clear for the line.
UAE Tour 2020, stage two: Hatta to Hatta Dam (168km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, in 4-18-16
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 2s
3. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 4s
4. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
5. Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
6. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale
7. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
9. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
10. David Gaudi (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, in 7-47-19
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 12s
3. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 16s
4. Nikolay Cherkasov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo, at 17s
5. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, at 19s
6. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott, at 20s
7. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
10. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, all at same time