Road

Sepp Kuss helps teammate at UAE Tour in his season’s first mountaintop finale

Neilson Powless moves into top-5 after solid opening stages at UAE Tour.

Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) looked to be back at his mountain-climbing best in his first summit finale of 2021 until he seemed to pop a gasket late in Tuesday’s third stage at the UAE Tour.

The American climber went with two pack-busting surges on the decisive moments on the Jebel Hafeet summit finale to splinter the lead group with about 5km to go, only to see the lead GC contenders regroup one last time on the steep climb. Kuss went again, drawing out Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates).

Related:

Yates came over the top, and it appeared Kuss was suffering in the heat under a searing acceleration that only Pogačar could follow. Kuss couldn’t match the pace, and then fell back to the chase group, and helped teammate Chris Harper retain fourth overall on GC.

There was no immediate reaction from Kuss, but Jumbo-Visma sport director Addy Engels said Kuss’s help was key for Harper to stay within podium range.

“It turned out to be too difficult for [Kuss] to follow. Then he started helping Chris to limit the damage,” Engels said. “That worked out well. The ninth place for Chris is fine, the fourth place in the general classification is even better, of course.”

Kuss seemed poised for a run at the stage victory, but could not following the blistering pace set by Yates. Pogačar had to dig deep to follow the Genadier’s wheel, and eventually came around Yates under the red kite to dash to the stage win and tighten his grip on the overall leader’s jersey. Yates climbed to second overall, while Kuss came across 12th on the stage.

After ceding time in the time trial Monday, Kuss was second in line in GC behind Harper going into Tuesday’s decisive climbing stage. Harper is now fourth at 1:43 back.

“The team’s work towards the final climb was fine. It allowed us to begin the final in a good position,” Engels said. “Chris is our classification rider, but we also wanted to go for the stage victory with Sepp.”

Neilson Powless opening strong at UAE Tour

Neilson Powless of EF Education-Nippo, riding in the best young rider’s jersey, during the third stage at the UAE Tour. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

EF Education-Nippo’s Neilson Powless continues to impress in his 2021 season debut.

After surviving the brutal crosswinds in good position in the opening stage Sunday, Powless posted a solid time trial Monday to punch into the top-10. On Tuesday, Powless was right with the lead chasers up the Jebel Hafeet summit.

Powless finished eighth on the summit, and climbed into fifth overall at 1:45 back.

Last year, Powless impressed during his Tour de France debut, and featured in several important breakaways, scoring two top-5 stage finishes.

Following Wednesday’s sprinter’s stage, Powless and Kuss will have a chance to test their climbing legs again in the 170km fifth stage from Fujairah Marine Club to the Jebel Jais summit Thursday. The long, but steady climb — 21.4km at 5.4 percent — should settle the GC going into the final two flatter stages. Strong winds — and so echelons — are an ever-present danger at the seven-day UAE Tour.