Tim Merlier doubles up in UAE Tour’s final sprint showdown on stage six

Soudal Quick-Step have now won three stages, with Remco Evenepoel leading the GC into the final day

Tim Merlier wins stage six UAE Tour 2023
(Image credit: Getty)

Belgian national champion Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) claimed his second victory of this year’s UAE Tour, proving himself as the fastest on stage six in Abu Dhabi. 

The 30-year-old burst through a gap in the race’s closing moments, and was able to hold off Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and stage five winner Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla), who completed the day’s podium. 

Speaking after the race, Merlier said: "Today was a good one. It was really hectic. Everyone was so nervous because today was the last sprint, the last opportunity. 

"In the last 500m, I found a good spot and went again from far out," he added. "Today was enough." 

British national champion Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) was absent from the bunch sprint, having suffered a mechanical in the final 2km.

Despite temperatures reaching 33 degrees Celsius, the wind never picked up enough to force echelons, leaving the general classification unchanged ahead of Sunday’s finale. World champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) continues to hold the red leader's jersey, with a nine-second advantage over Ineos Grenadiers’ Luke Plapp. 

"Being in the lead for the last day is a special one," Evenepoel told the press in Abu Dhabi. "We're going to defend this jersey very well and maybe, why not, try to go for the stage again tomorrow." 

How it happened

Soon after the flag drop, a three-man breakaway formed - made up of intermediate sprints classification leader Edward Planckaert (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Samuele Zoccarato (Grean Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) and former US national champion Larry Warbasse (AG2R Citroën) - but was kept on a tight leash by the peloton.

The trio were reeled in with 5km to go, before the sprint trains took charge on the wide run-in to the line.

Hoping to set up a second successive win for Groenewegen, Jayco AlUla led the bunch through sweeping right-hand bend onto the finishing straight. There, as the road veered slightly to the left, Merlier found a gap on the inside and accelerated through to the front.

Only Bennett was able to follow the green jersey wearer's wheel, but the Irishman couldn't muster the speed to come around him.

Merlier lifted his arms to mark his team's third win of this year's UAE Tour, adding to his sprint success on stage one and victory in the team time trial on stage two.

The race will conclude on Sunday with a summit finish atop the steeply pitched, 10km-long climb of Jebel Hafeet.  

Results

UAE Tour 2023, stage six: Warner Bros. World to Abu Dhabi Breakwater (166km)

1. Tim Merlier (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, in 3-41-12
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jayco AlUla
4. Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
5. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Movistar
6. Arvid de Kleijn (Ned) Tudor Pro Cycling
7. Sam Welsford (Aus) Team DSM
8. Gerben Thijssen (Bel) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty
9. Emīls Liepiņš (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
10. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious, all at same time

General classification after stage six 

1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Soudal Quick-Step, in 16-14-28
2. Luke Plapp (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 9s
3. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 13s
4. Stefan de Bod (Zaf) EF Education-EasyPost, at 1-03
5. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-06
6. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Team DSM
7. Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM, both at 1-12
8. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar
9. Georg Steinhauser (Ger) EF Education-EasyPost, both at 1-13
10. Adam Yates (GBr) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-14

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