For a second day running, victory in the 2023 UAE Tour was decided by an agonisingly close margin as EF Education-EasyPost came within just one second of clinching a triumph in the team time trial, only to lose at the last possible moment.
If on Monday’s bunch sprint finish, Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny) were so close coming across the line, neither knew who had won, for much of Tuesday afternoon the battle for the top spot in the team time trial seemed equally uncertain.
But as team after team came perilously close to EF’s provisional best time yet failed to dislodge them, the smiles and grins along the line of pink-clad figures waiting in the hot seat podium chairs grew broader and broader.
Yet at the last possible moment, the final team to finish, Soudal-QuickStep, managed to topple EF’s time from atop the leaderboard. And in a question of seconds, the same pink-clad riders went from near-victory celebrations live on TV to making their way out of the side entrance to the podium area in dribs and drabs, before crossing a vast semi-empty car park to the waiting team cars.
Although disappointment at coming so close was obvious, the mood amongst the riders was one of quiet satisfaction at having given the rest of the field bar one a major run for their money.
“It’s a pity but while we were waiting for the other teams to finish, we were realistic, we always had the doubt at the back of our minds,” Andrey Amador told Cyclingnews as he walked across the car park.
“Many teams like Bahrain and Ineos were yet to come after we finished, though, maybe half in total.”
“Seeing how QuickStep were going in the last kilometre, we did begin to think we’d got a really good chance. But even if we lost by a second, this result gives us a lot of confidence to keep building for the future. That’s cycling.”
Considered one of the ‘motors’ for the EF squad in the TTT, Amador agreed that finishing second was a much better result than they had perhaps anticipated, “but that’s because we can be too pessimistic at times.”
“There were teams with lots of specialists and there are a lot of young riders in our team here. But Education First has always been a pioneer when it comes to team equipment, we’ve got a great time trial bike and our kits are really aerodynamic. These days, all those details truly add up and we showed we had some quality riders today.”
Speaking after EF Education-EasyPost had secured top spot…
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