A frustrated Yousif Mirza rued yet another missed opportunity for UAE Team Emirates after they failed to get their leader Alexander Kristoff first over the finish line atop Hatta Dam in the Dubai Tour fourth stage on Friday.
Kristoff, the reigning European champion, has engaged in tight sprint battled over the past few days on the roads of the UAE but is still searching for that maiden victory with the Emirati outfit.
The Norwegian heads into Saturday’s fifth and final stage in eighth place in the GC standings and Mirza is hopeful they home team can finish the Dubai Tour on a high note.
“We worked all day for Alex so we could get our first win of the season but it wasn’t meant to be,” the Emirati rider told Sport360 as he gasped for air following a gruelling finish in Hatta.
“We still have a fifth chance to do it. It’s a flat stage and perhaps our best chance to get the win.”
Kristoff took fourth place in Friday’s Hatta Stage behind Sonny Colbrelli, Magnus Cort Nielsen and Timo Roosen. He was seventh on stages two and three. UAE Team Emirates have been riding for Kristoff all week but the taste of victory is yet to come for the 30-year-old sprinter.
“Honestly we did everything we could today, we put in a huge effort,” said Mirza, a local who knows this climb like the back of his hand and who crossed the finish line in 24thplace.
“For Alex, there really isn’t anything missing for him to grab a victory. The entire team is working for him. He’s our leader. But Bahrain-Merida did a better job today. The climb made all the difference in the end. Sonny had two riders ready to help him in the final 200m. It’s only 200m but as you can see it’s a very steep climb. So the first team to get there will of course get the win.”
Kristoff was not too disappointed with how things unfolded, saying: “I’m pretty satisfied with fourth place. Whilst a podium position would have been a great way to end a great race, I prefer to focus my attention on the fact that I’m producing consistent performances in the top 10.”
“My team-mates were fantastic leading me to the approach of Hatta Dam, especially Sven Erik Bystrom and Matteo Bono who both did a really impressive job. My legs were fairly good, but maybe the final few metres were too heavy for me.”
Italian Sonny Colbrelli won Friday’s fourth stage of the Dubai Tour in an uphill sprint finish as compatriot Elia Viviani maintained the overall lead.
Colbrelli surged clear on the finish to Hatta Dam ahead of Dane Magnus Cort Nielsen and Timo Rodsen of the Netherlands after lone escapee Brandon McNulty was hauled in shortly before the finish.
The 19-year-old lost a 45-second lead on the short final climb at the end of the 172km stage.
Viviani finished sixth on the stage and now leads Cort Nielsen by two seconds overall with Colbrelli third at 4sec.
Stage winner Colbrelli said: “I really wanted to win today because the team has been working for me since day one. I was close yesterday.
“The last 50 metres looked to me like an infinity. This victory means a lot for my team and is very important for my morale. Even without being the favorites, we raced as a team like leaders. ”
Viviani said: “The race isn’t over yet. Two seconds advantage over Cort Nielsen isn’t much, considering how strong he is… but we have a strong team.
“It was the case again to close the gap on the breakaway riders. I’m happy with the result because the goal was to defend the Blue Jersey. I think I couldn’t do more than this.
“I just have to do my best sprint tomorrow to win the Dubai Tour and possibly another stage.”
The Tour ends with Saturday’s 132km fifth and final stage.
Elia Viviani may have spent much of Wednesday toasting to his 29th birthday, but a day on the celebrations continued as the Italian sealed the leaders’ blue jersey on Stage 3 in Fujairah.
The Quick-Step Floors rider leads the overall classifications of the Dubai Tour by four seconds, with two stages remaining, and looks on the cusp of sealing a first victory on UAE soil.
A sixth-place finish had to suffice for Viviani on Thursday, and although he was disappointed with his execution in the final metres of the sprint, he showed mettle to push for the line against eventual stage winner Mark Cavendish.
“It’s not the best result for me but I’m happy to have the leaders’ jersey. I was disappointed not to take some bonuses for second or third today, but we always try to sprint for the win,” he said.
“The headwind with 200metres to go is difficult with such a good sprinter on the wheel. It’s difficult to stay in front until the line. I started to lose speed on the last 50m with five guys approaching me and I ended up finishing sixth.”
Friday’s 172km route will take the riders out of Skydive Dubai and towards the hilly terrain of Hatta, which will provide its first real challenge.
Given Viviani is a sprinter, it will be difficult for the former Team Sky man to attack on the 500m ascent that concludes the stage, but he is hoping for a positive showing to keep his hands on the blue jersey.
“I think it’s difficult for me to try to win, but if I’m in a good position with good leg speed I’ll try to defend as much as possible. It’s nothing to do with lead out, but to be in good position,” he added.
“We need to defend but that’s what all the sprinters are thinking about tomorrow. Whoever wins tomorrow will be the biggest contender.”
Based on his consistency over the first three days, the Verona native looks in firm control to push for a first title in Dubai.
“It’s a tough finish on Friday. A lot of it is about positioning. The gap is so small,” he said. “All the sprinters will have the same goal. Defend and try to attack on Friday. It’s a chance to gain time and think about Saturday.”