UAE Tour S2: Lorena Wiebes sprints to vindication

The Dutch sprinter dashes to her first win with SD Worx.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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Lorena Wiebes made up for a near-miss by kicking to victory in stage 2 at the UAE Tour on Friday.

Wiebes crashed late in Thursday’s opener, and missed the win in her debut with SD Worx. On Friday, things followed the script, and she won the 133k stage from Al Dhafra Castle to Al Mirfa.

“I’m feeling great now! Today was a tough stage, very windy and with crosswinds, we went full gas from the start until the finish line,” Wiebes said. “My teammates did a great job, we showed we are a strong team with a great leadout. Tomorrow I hope I can help Anna Shackley as much as possible.”

The tables turned as the rivalry between Wiebes and former teammate Charlotte Kool heats up in the Middle East.

Kool, the winner Thursday, crossed the line second, with Team DSM teammate Georgi Pfeiffer third.

How it happened: Cavalli caught out early

The peloton rolled out of the grounds of Al Dhafra Castle with the wind sweeping sand over the nearby dunes. Sure enough, barely any time had passed since the flag drop before the race was split into three groups thanks to the efforts of Team DSM and SD Worx. 

A group of 19 riders formed at the front including stage one winner Charlotte Kool and pre-race favorite Wiebes. Also in the group was Italian sprinter Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) as well as GC hopefuls Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) alongside second place in the black jersey competition Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon//SRAM) in the hunt for intermediate sprint points.  

Those who missed out on the split included the entire FDJ-Suez and Jayco AlUla squads as well as Uno-X meaning that the likes of pre-race GC favourite Marta Cavalli found themselves in the group that was at one point was 5 minutes behind the leaders. 

Sensing that many of her GC rivals had lost out, Longo Borghini attempted to increase the pace in the front group in an effort to keep the others at bay, but the Italian succeeded only in dropping some of the other members of her group and weakening their collective strength. 

As the peloton turned into the headwind section of the course the chasing group began to close in on the front riders  and with 43km to go the first and second groups came together.

The group including Cavalli, however, was still trailing and with her teammates doing the lion’s share of the work the groups eventually joined with 20km to go. 

It wasn’t quite over for the Italian and her team, however, as with 9km to go Canyon//SRAM took up the front of the peloton, forcing another split on which Cavalli found herself on the wrong side of. 

Canyon//SRAM and Uno-X continued to drive the front and the second group was distanced as the sprinter’s teams began to line up for the run-in to the finish. 

Team DSM put themselves in position ready to take on the sweeping right-hand corner before the line while SD Worx mirrored their efforts on the other side. Down the finishing straight Kool had Maeve Plouffe and Pffeifer Georgi leading her out while Wiebes had Barbara Guarischi to guide her. 

Wiebes: ‘I had more power in my legs’

As Georgi pulled away and Kool opened up her sprint, Wiebes, who was on Kool’s wheel, came charging past with the power she is known for — and which she was lacking the previous day — to take her first win for her new team. 

“Today my sprint felt better, I had more power in my legs and I think I showed it,” Wiebes said after the stage. 

“I’m really happy. Especially yesterday when my sprint didn’t feel great and today I felt I had still the power in the final and I was really focussed on it. Maybe also a bit of extra motivation because yesterday the team did such a great lead out and then of course I’m disappointed to not finish it off and today I did so I’m happy.”

After an improved run-in to the finish for the European champion after crashing on the previous stage, she explained how her team guided her to the win. 

“We were early with the lead out but I think it was actually good,” she said. “And then DSM came on the left side and we were able to go next to them and then I fully trusted in Barbara again and she put me in the wheel of Charlotte and that was completely fine for me and I was able to start my sprint as I wanted and what I said today I felt I had the power and that is always good.”

Although the race came back together after she and her team worked to make the split in the crosswinds, Wiebes did not see the effort as wasted.

“Our goal for today was to sprint for the victory and if you put too much energy in the headwind then it’s possible that you don’t have a lead out anymore and I think the lead out was more important than dropping the other riders,” she explained, adding that with teammate Anna Shackley having missed the split: “For her tomorrow is also an important stage so it’s nice that she got back in the first group to not lose any seconds so for us it was both ways fine.”

With a mountain top finish at Jebel Hafeet tomorrow, Wiebes would be expected to take it easy, reserving energy for the final sprint showdown on stage four. However, she explained that she is planning to help her Scottish teammate. 

“I think I like it to have a bit more pressure on my legs tomorrow also so I think it’s time to suffer for Anna,” she said.  “I think the wind is not as strong. I have to look at Veloviewer again I was too much focused on the first two days. But if there are crosswinds we will be fine.” 

With the tally at one-all between Wiebes and Kool, a new sprint rivalry is forming in the women’s peloton between the two former teammates. “I think that makes me also stronger again, to really fight,” Wiebes said of her rival. “This year we have a lot of nice battles together.” 

Meanwhile, Longo Borghini and Lippert are the best-placed climbers going into stage three. Jayco AlUla’s Kristen Faulkner, Canyon//SRAM’s Soraya Paladin, and SD Worx’s Anna Shackley sit three seconds behind them while Cavalli has 34 seconds of ground to make up on her rivals. 

Wiebes now leads the general classification, sprints classification, and best young rider classification while Skalniak-Sójka, having taken the first intermediate sprint point and second in the final one of the day, overtakes Liane Lippert (Movistar) in the lead of the black jersey competition. 

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