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UAE Tour stage 5: Jasper Philipsen wins wild sprint, Tadej Pogačar fends off puncture to defend

Late-race puncture nearly costs Tadej Pogačar the leader's jersey as straight-ahead sprint stage sees some drama.

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Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin Fenix) won a wild and frenetic sprint in Thursday’s fifth stage at the UAE Tour.

Philipsen confirmed he’s on top form by taking the thrilling sprint finale against a world-class sprinter field in the 182km run from Ras al Khaimah Corniche to Al Marjan Island.

Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) crossed the line second and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) was third.

“It was a fast finish and we had a good plan,” Philipsen said. “My lead-out man lost his chain, so it was a bit of chaos to find a good view toward the finish, but in the end, it all came out OK, so we’re super-happy. Winning is never getting boring, it’s just the same adrenaline I am feeling.”

There was a bit of a panic for overnight leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates), who punctured his rear tire with about 6.5km to go.

With the peloton in full chase of a solo breakaway, Pogačar’s leader’s jersey was in danger. Two teammates helped to pace him to the tail end of the lead group at 4.5km, marking an impressive return to the fray in time to defend his leader’s jersey.

Pogačar picked up some intermediate bonus seconds early in the race to widen his lead from two to four seconds going into the final weekend of racing.

“No reason to panic, it happens. I believed in Mikkel [Bjerg] , and he bridged me back, so it was a perfect team job, so I was not stressed at all,” Pogačar said. “Alpecin were attacking all the stage, and we were present in every attack. So once again great teamwork. At the bonus sprint, I saw the opportunity to take some seconds.”

Up the road, Gazprom’s Michael Kukrle tried to disrupt the script with a solo effort in the closing 25km, putting pressure on the sprinter teams to wake up from their collective slumber to chase down the Czech national champion.

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Kukrle opened a lead of north of two minutes with 20km to go, and it the sprint teams battled through heavy winds to trim it to 45 seconds with 7km to go. The bunch caught him with at 3km to go.

Despite an early breakaway and a few fits and starts with echelons, the bunch barreled into the finale in massing hulk. A late solo attack forced the bunch to up the pace in the final 25km, but there was no denying the sprinters on this day.

‘Top Ganna’ pushes pace, Cavendish starts

Despite crashing early in Wednesday’s mountaintop finale, Mark Cavendish took the start of Thursday’s stage.

Doctors gave the sprinting star the green light to start in what all but would assured as a sprint finale.

Echelons were the main risk across the flat, wide open profile. An early four-rider breakaway was duly reeled in to set up the final hour of racing.

Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) seemed intent on making things tricky, and pushed the pace in the crosswinds with about 40km to go. That strung out the peloton, but the favorites collaborated to keep the bunch into one huddled mass.

Gazprom was active early in the break, and then sent Michael Kukrle on a solo flier with just under 30km to go and he quickly opened up a gap of two minutes with just over 20km to go.

With the bunch breathing down his back, led by BikeExchange-Jayco and Ineos Grenadiers, the brave effort was doomed.

The race leader was safely protected by his teammates in Thursday’s stage. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

What’s next: Another chance for the sprinters

The pack’s fast finishers will be licking their chops ahead of Friday’s sixth stage.

The 180km circuit course starting and finishing at the Dubai 2020 Expo park is nearly dead flat. Wind could be a factor but it’s the last chance this week for the sprinters to add a WorldTour-level victory to their palmarès.

The GC riders will be cooling their jets ahead of Saturday’s uphill finale to finish off the race in stage 7 ending atop Jebel Hafeet.

All eyes will be on if any one of his direct rivals can take it to Pogačar on the final climb.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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