It was double delight for UAE Team Emirates on Wednesday as Fernando Gaviria and Dan Martin both secured top three finishes in their respective races.
Gaviria, competing in the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne in Belgium, was first up, battling hard in a sprint finish to take home second place behind eventual race winner, Dylan Groenewegen, of Jumbo-Visma.
It was the Colombian’s seventh podium finish for UAE Team Emirates, in what is turning out to be a fantastic debut season for the sprinter.
Second up was Martin. The Irishman was competing on Stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya and was unfortunate not to take top spot, in what was a thrilling climb to the finish.
With just 200m to go, it looked like Martin was in with a shot at the stage victory, but going round the final bend Adam Yates, of Mitchelton-Scott, was able to come around Martin and take the win, with Team Sky’s Egan Bernal tight on his wheel.
Martin’s third place finish in the stage allowed him to jump 14 places in the overall General Classification (GC) standings where he now sits in fourth place just 37” behind the green jersey.
Commenting on his finish, Gaviria said: “I’m sorry because I wanted to win. The sprint was complicated with a few curves and narrow roads. At seven kilometres from the finish, there was a crash that caused us to lose (Tom) Bohli and we used energy to return to the front part of the group.
“In the final kilometres, (Roberto) Ferrari worked amazingly well to take me into position for the last kilometre. Then I did my sprint, but Groenewegen was on my wheel and was able to pass me.”
Commenting on his result in Spain, Martin said: “The pace on the final climb was high, we were going quickly up until the start of the climb, so the work of my team-mates was even more important. They kept me in a great position.
“I had good feelings, I tried to go at my pace and it allowed me to return to the front in the last kilometres. When I returned, I tried to play my cards in the sprint, keeping sure that I was at the front in the last two curves, above all in the last turn at 200 metres to the line.
“Unfortunately, this curve was a little narrower than I expected and I had to take the inside line, I had to slow down and this favoured Yates, and he had fresher legs. Third place is great. I would’ve preferred to win. I’ll try again tomorrow.”
With UAE Team Emirates’ riders testing their legs in recent European Tour races, the intensity is about to shift up a gear as the team gets set for the official start of the Spring Classics.
The pulsating 10 days of cycling will kick off with the traditional curtain-raiser, the E3 BinckBank Classic, on March 29, for which UAE Team Emirates has announced a stellar line-up.
Leading the team’s charge for one-day glory will be Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff. He will be supported by Belgian youngster Jasper Philipsen, who makes his debut in this race and will be eager to impress in front of a home crowd.
The race also has added sentiment for Philipsen; he won the 2016 junior edition in what was just his second ever road race victory as a junior.
He will be joined by Tom Bohli, Marco Marcato, Oliviero Troia, Sven Erik Bystrom and Norwegian national road race champion, Vegard Stake Laengen.
Commenting ahead of the race, Kristoff said: “With the E3, my northern campaign starts. I’m arriving there with my condition and health better than last year, so I hope to be able to be more competitive. The team is reinforced for these races, so the signs are looking good.”
The 203.9km route will be no easy ride. The hilly parcours are supplemented by cobbled roads, synonymous with the Spring Classics races. With 15 sharp climbs scattered throughout the route, riders will have to show their grit and determination to get to the finish.
The first climb comes after 27km and will give riders just a brief taste of what’s to come. It’s reasonably plain sailing for the proceeding 40km, before the peloton starts to hit the more serious climbs. It will be the second half of the race where the action really starts to hot up.
The route provides a relentless number of hills, and in the past – despite being far from the finish line – riders have used this section as an opportunity to attack.
With just over 50km of the race to go, the peloton will enter the most difficult section of the race featuring the Kapelberg, a 750m climb with an average gradient of 7.1 per cent; the Paterberg, a 400m climb that averages 12.9 and the Oude Kwaremont, a 2.2km haul averaging inclines of 4.4.
All have the added difficulty of being played out along the cobbles. The final climb of the day will see riders tackle the Tiegemberg, 1km of climbing at 5.6 per cent, before a slightly downhill 2km sprint to the finish.
UAE Team Emirates announced on Sunday that Fabio Aru will undergo an operation which will rule him out for at least three to four months.
That means the Italian will miss the Giro d’Italia as a “constriction of the iliac artery in his left leg” was revealed by tests on the twice Giro podium finisher.
“This relatively rare condition is found in professional cyclists given the position adopted on their bikes and can develop progressively over a period of several years,” said Dr Jeroen Swart, head of the medical staff of UAE Team Emirates.
“In the coming days, with a date to be determined based on the availability of the hospital, Aru will undergo angioplasty surgery at the Nuovo Ospedale di Prato, after which he will have to observe an absolute rest period of one month. For something like this, the
return time is estimated at three or four months.”
Not only does that sideline Aru for the Giro, which begins on May 11, but also the Tour of Catalunya taking place from March 25-31.
“From a certain point of view, I can only be relieved to have found the problem,” the 28-year-old said.
“On the other hand, I am angry about the bad luck that has fallen on me for the umpteenth time and that will force me to miss the Giro d’Italia again. I will work to try to put an end to this dark period as soon as possible.”