For most sprinters, being boxed in in a finale is a nightmare. Not for Charlotte Kool, though.
As the Team DSM rider hurtled towards the finish line in Abu Dhabi on stage four of the UAE Tour Women, she found herself trapped behind her former team-mate Lorena Wiebes. It wasn’t the plan, but fortunately the elements were on her side.
“The plan was to start actually earlier,” Kool told the media, including Cycling Weekly, after the stage. “I guess with the wind it was perfect timing and it turned out pretty good.”
By the city’s marina, boat sails grappled with the breeze. Kool, having lost her lead-out woman Pfeiffer Georgi on the run-in to the line, was forced to improvise, latching onto Wiebes’s wheel and biding her time into the headwind.
“I think, if I saw it right, her lead-out was done quite early, so she was kind of forced to go early,” Kool said of her SD Worx sprint rival. “I have to say, we also didn’t expect this wind. It wasn’t really on the weather protocols.
“It was really chaotic. I was quite boxed in, but I just said ok, wait, wait, wait, wait until I find a gap, then I found a gap and I launched my sprint.”
With 50m to go, Kool kicked down on the pedals and rounded her compatriot. It was déjà vu for many. Wiebes had been caught out again by the wind - as had happened on stage one - and Kool was poised to pounce. So too was UAE Team ADQ’s Chiara Consonni, who pipped Wiebes to second.
“It seems it was perfect being boxed in,” Kool said.
Reflecting on her bookended victories at the race, she added: “I think we started it the right way, and we finished it in the right way. I’m really, really happy we ended it this way with the team. We had an amazing week and it’s a dream come true.”
At the start of the stage, a local brass band performed the Rocky theme as the riders rolled out. It seemed an odd soundtrack, but ultimately a fitting one. For in the race’s final sprint match-up, Kool dealt a knockout blow, proving not only that she has the power, but also the tactical nous to win.
Elisa Longo Borghini seals red jersey
On the podium in Abu Dhabi, Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini stood in a cloud of red and gold confetti as the winner of the UAE Tour.
It seemed somewhat of a formality, really. Having conquered Jebel Hafeet on Saturday, drawing out an advantage of over a minute to UAE Team ADQ’s Silvia Persico, Sunday’s final stage ended up being a victory procession. A late dig from Liane Lippert (Movistar) threatened to spoil the parade, but it was quickly quashed, and the Italian was able to cross the line with a smile.
“It was quite an easy day,” Longo Borghini said after the race. “It’s been an amazing four days for us, for Trek-Segafredo, and we are delighted to be here.
“I feel actually really proud to be the first woman to win this Tour and I’m looking forward to the next edition. I hope this Tour will become a classic of the February calendar.”
The day before the inaugural UAE Tour began, Longo Borghini took part in a pre-race press conference. There, Cycling Weekly asked her if she was hoping to win. “Well," she replied, "to say that I’m here to win it, it’s a little bit arrogant. I’m here to give my best together with my team and to make it a good race.”
After the race, as road workers dismantled the barriers down the home straight, Longo Borghini was asked how she plans to celebrate her victory. “We are planning to go out with the staff to have some drinks and some ice cream,” she said. A well-earned treat after an impressive four days of racing.
Kool won the green jersey as the best sprinter, while Gaia Realini (Trek-Segafredo) was named the race's best young rider and Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon-Sram) the winner of the intermediate sprints competition.
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