UAE Tour stage 5: Olav Kooij edges out Tim Merlier in photo finish

Dutchman stops Merlier's dominance in tight sprint in Fujairah

Clock12:52, Friday 23rd February 2024
The photo finish on stage 5 of the UAE Tour

© Tim de Waele/Velo Collection via Getty Images

The photo finish on stage 5 of the UAE Tour

Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease A Bike) stopped the sprinting dominance of Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) at the UAE Tour, edging out the Belgian in a photo finish to win stage 5.

Kooij sprinted off the wheel off Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan), who had a strong lead-out from Michael Morkov but was unable to take it to the line, with Kooij surging past the Manxman on the right-hand side of the road.

Kooij’s closest challengers initially appeared to be Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe) until two-time stage winner Merlier jutted out from further down the pack and out into the open road on the left.

Merlier gained all the way to the line and threw for it, bringing about a tight finish in which neither rider was totally sure who had won. In the end, the confirmation came that the win was Kooij’s.

“I didn’t know, so we had to wait a bit, but I’m really happy,” said Kooij, who collected the 30th victory of his young career, and his sixth at WorldTour level.

“After the first two sprints, it got better, but you need to get everything right to get the win,” he explained. “I never hit too much wind, with the headwind, and I tried to get a good position through the last roundabout. I thought maybe I was a bit far but I could follow Mark Cavendish on the right and luckily there was still a little gap so I could pass.”

Welsford claimed the final spot on the podium, while the likes of Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla) and Fabio Jakobsen (dsm-firmenich-PostNL) had to settle for minor places, and Cavendish slipped outside the top 10, from which more big names were absent: Sam Bennett (Decathlon-AG2R), Fernando Gaviria (Movistar), Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates), Pascal Ackermann (Israel-Premier Tech).

Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) finished safely in the bunch – and even did a stint on the front in the finale – to retain the red jersey as overall leader, with the only general classification change being Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto Dstny) hopping into the top 10 via the breakaway.

An unlikely breakaway and a hectic run-in

The fifth stage of the 2024 UAE Tour took place in Fujairah, plotting a 182km route from Al Aqah on the east coast of the small Emirate to Umm Al Quwain on the west coast. It was a largely flat route, with a bunch sprint always an extremely likely prospect.

That didn’t stop three riders from breaking away, and the escape had a slightly different flavour to it, with GC contender Van Eetvelt slipping up the road, alongside a teammate in Harm Vanhoucke, plus Lidl-Trek’s Jacopo Mosca.

The trio gained a lead of three minutes but weren’t given much rope by a watchful peloton, which was on the continued alert for crosswinds, even if no drama materialised on that front. Van Eetvelt’s plan was never to stay away, but rather to collect the bonus seconds at the two intermediate sprints, which he duly did to gain six seconds on his competitors.

That moved him up four places overall, into ninth, 37 seconds behind the lead of Vine. Whether it makes a big difference overall remains to be seen at the top of Jebel Hafeet on Saturday, but the Belgian will argue it wasn’t a huge effort on a day that was relaxed all round.

Things did start to ramp up in the final 20km, however, once Mosca – who’d carried on once the Lotto duo had abandoned their mission after the second intermediate sprint – was caught by the peloton. There was a change of direction with 18km to go and things briefly accelerated, but UAE quickly took control and kept things under wraps.

A huge number of teams traded turns on the front of the peloton going into the final 10km, and it was notable that the red jersey of overall leader Vine was on the front and in the wind at the head of the UAE line for a good kilometre or so.

When it came to the final few kilometres, Bora-Hansgrohe moved up, and Movistar gave it a big nudge through a pair of late roundabouts. Bahrain Victorious muscled their way to the front, and Intemarché-Wanty similarly got involved ahead of the final kilometre, while Cavendish patiently followed Morkov just behind.

Things appeared to open up for the 34-time Tour de France stage winner, but when he himself opened up, he didn’t have the legs to kick all the way to the line, and had to relent as the others sped by. One of those riders was Kooij, sprinting directly off the wheel and up the right-hand side of the road. He was made to sweat by Merlier, whose come-from-behind sprint was mightily impressive, but was soon able to celebrate a fine win in a stellar field of sprinting talent.

For more of the latest racing results and updates, visit our race news page.

Race Results

1

nl flag

KOOIJ Olav

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

4H 08' 38"

2

be flag

MERLIER Tim

Soudal Quick-Step

"

3

au flag

WELSFORD Sam

BORA-hansgrohe

"

4

it flag

CONSONNI Simone

Lidl-Trek

"

5

be flag

FRETIN Milan

Cofidis

"

6

de flag

BAUHAUS Phil

Bahrain Victorious

"

7

nl flag

GROENEWEGEN Dylan

Team Jayco-AlUla

"

8

nl flag

VAN DIJKE Tim

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

"

9

au flag

GROVES Kaden

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

10

nl flag

JAKOBSEN Fabio

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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