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Ineos Grenadiers may have come off second best to an unstoppable Tadej Pogačar on stage 4 of the UAE Tour but the British team put in a valiant effort as it tried to deny the defending champion a stage win and the race lead atop Jebel Jais.
Adam Yates finished second to the two-time Tour de France winner after being beaten in the sprint to the line, while both Filippo Ganna and Ineos debutant Luke Plapp put in strong cameo performances.
Pogačar now leads on GC with Ganna, who came back to the leaders after being dropped on the line, at just two seconds. Yates, meanwhile, has moved up six places to fourth and is just 15 seconds down on the Slovenian race leader.
For Plapp, it was a baptism of fire but the Australian was still in the lead group on the steepest sections of the climb, and even managed a stinging attack inside the last 500 meters. That move drew out Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates squad, and although Plapp faded before the line, his efforts made a significant impression on the stage.
“It was… I don’t have the words! It was good fun,” Plapp said at the line.
“I thought we controlled it pretty well. But it was too easy to ride tempo up that climb I think. Once you had a gap it was too easy for the group to ride it back. But we gave it a crack and Adam got second so it keeps us in the fight for the final day and anything can happen there. We’re still in the hunt.”
“I had some pretty good legs today, for the first time. I didn’t know where that would sit in the WorldTour, so I was pretty happy with that. But ride of the day – Pippo. It was awesome to see him do that and so nearly take the jersey.”
Yates increased the pace just before the hardest part of the climb and was present in all the key moments. He was on Pogačar’s wheel just as the Slovenian kicked for the line but he was unable to respond and was forced to settle for second on the stage.
His first reaction was to praise his two teammates, Ganna and Plapp, but he acknowledged that going toe-to-toe with Pogačar on a climb so well suited to him was a difficult task.
“Ganna in second! A top 10 of climbers and then the big fella. We did a really good race,” said Yates.
“But to be honest on this climb, it’s pretty hard to get it right. [It has] a 5 percent average the whole way and the wind plays a factor so we tried to be conservative today. Plappy did a great job closing moves and then his attack was impressive in the final trying to chip off for the win. And the big fella was still there! So it’s been a good day.
“I was with Pogačar but he’s pretty quick on this type of finish. It was the best we could do but we gave it a crack. Like we’ve said all along, Saturday will be the critical climb.”