‘I didn’t realise how steep the final climb was’: Brandon McNulty reflects on Dubai Tour solo effort near miss

The young American was caught agonisingly close to the line on the uphill finish to Hatta Dam

Brandon McNulty makes a solo break on Dubai Tour stage four (Foto LaPresse - Fabio Ferrari)
(Image credit: LaPresse/ Fabio Ferrari)

Nineteen-year-old American rider Brandon McNulty’s thrilling solo bid for victory at the Dubai Tour stage four came undone within the final 200m because he underestimated the severity of the race’s final ramp.

The Rally Cycling rider had been in the breakaway all day before he left final breakaway companion Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) behind on the race’s penultimate climb.

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He valiantly held off the chasing peloton driven on by Bahrain-Merida and Astana for much of the rest of the race, crossing the 1km to go line with 30 seconds in hand.

But as he rounded the final corner of the Hatta Dam climb he was confronted with the fearsome 17 per cent finishing slope.

Brandon McNulty at the finish of Dubai Tour stage four (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

“It was an ‘oh sh*t’ moment,” McNulty told reporters at the finish, adding that his legs cramped up on the final climb.

“At 100m to go I thought I wouldn’t get caught but then the wall hit and I looked back and the peloton was there,” he said.

He admitted he’d underestimated the final ramp’s severity, which saw Sonny Colbrelli take victory in the final sprint to the top.

“We saw that it was steep but I think the first two before it were a bit overestimated so I thought it’d be the same as those two but it was quite a bit worse,” the 2016 junior time trial world champion said.

The American said that he had not had updates on the time gaps from his team for half of the stage because of problems with the radio, but that it hadn’t made much difference to measuring his solo effort.

“None of it was pacing it was just going as hard as I could and trying to hold on for as long as I could. I was surprised the gap was 42 seconds and then the moto came back and it was 50 seconds and I was like, ‘oh wow I’ve got a shot.’”


McNulty, who could be seen labouring out of the saddle on the final climb, added: “To get caught in the last 1,500m for someone my age isn’t something to complain about.”

However, despite the disappointment of seeing his stage win chances evaporate within sight of the finish line, McNulty was upbeat about the job he and his team had done at the Dubai Tour.

“I still put myself out there so I’m happy, a great day for the team," he said.

"It was great having Robin [Carpenter] up there with me, he did everything to set me up to go solo.”

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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, World Championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the Middle East. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.