Sam Bennett has taken his first major victory of 2019 on stage seven of the inaugural UAE Tour.
The Irish sprinter came close on a number of occasions earlier in the week-long stage race, but finally took victory on the final day.
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With a major headwind on the final straight, Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) waited until the last possible moment to emerge from the wheel of Fernando Gaviria and take the win.
Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič crossed the line safely to secure overall victory in his first race of the year, 31 seconds ahead of nearest rival Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
How it happened
The final stage of the first UAE Tour, a pan-flat 145km from Dubai Safari Park to City Walk, was expected to be the final sprint of the week-long race.
High winds of up to 40km/h made for nervous racing, but the route around Dubai and finish near the Burj Khalifa was sheltered enough to prevent any major splits.
A breakaway of three riders attacked out of the gate, consisting of Will Clarke (Trek-Segafredo), Benoît Cosneyfroy (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), as the peloton allowed them the escape.
The trio were granted a 4-30 gap 50km into the race, as the sprint teams remained confident of controlling proceedings for the bunch kick.
A rotation of riders from Jumbo-Visma, Deceuninck – Quick-Step, Dimension Data, UAE Team Emirates and Lotto-Soudal ensured the gap never strayed past five minutes.
With 50km left to race after a quiet procession towards metropolitan Dubai, the peloton had closed the gap down to 2-18.
With around 16km left to the line, the bunch ramped up the pace to close down the 1-34 gap to the escapees.
A wall of headwind awaited the sprinters, with a 450m-long straight taking them to the line directly into the strong gusts.
The break was finally caught with 3km to race as Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) hit the front to work for German sprinter Max Walscheid.
Lotto-Soudal then took control for Caleb Ewan and led the bunch into the final corner.
The power of Ewan’s lead-out train faded before the line, allowing Alexander Kristoff to power past with his sprinter Gaviria on the wheel.
But Kristoff moved over and Gaviria was left exposed, forcing the Colombian to open 100m from the line.
Bennett came out from behind Gaviria almost immediately and hit the line first, taking victory in his first WorldTour race of the year.
UAE Tour 2019, stage seven: Dubai Safari Park to City Walk (145km)
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, 3-17-51
2. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
6. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain-Merida
7. Max Walscheid (Ger) Sunweb
8. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
9. Matteo Meschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Sky, all at same time
General classification after stage seven
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 26-27-29
2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 31s
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 44s
4. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 56s
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 1-04s
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb, at 1-08
7. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-11
8. James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-Quick-Step, at 01-29
9. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-45
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 1-49