Amid the battle for stage victory and the red jersey on the last day of the UAE Tour on Jebel Hafeet, overall runner-up Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) kept his head down and stuck to his own objectives – not quite oblivious to everything that was going on around him, but almost.
As Plapp explained afterwards, in his first ever fight for a GC WorldTour podium, his strategy was simply to tackle the race’s crucial final climb at his own pace and see how far that got him. And by and large, that strategy worked.
Plapp was sometimes alone on the climb after he was dropped when eventual stage winner Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) blasted away half way up, and sometimes in groups of one or two. He finally crossed the line in sixth place, just behind GC rival Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) and then waited to see what the final ranking looked like.
He soon learned that he had remained in second overall behind Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), albeit by a minimal margin of one second on Yates, and four seconds on fourth-placed Bilbao.
It had been a tight battle, then, but one in which the Australian National Champion finally secured his first ever WorldTour stage race podium. “It’s a massive step forwards,” he said.
“That was a time trial for me from bottom to top, I had to pace it as well as I could, I couldn’t have gone any harder.
“To be honest, I think Yatesy was unbeatable today, I don’t think anybody in the world could have come close to him. So it was a great day, I’m really glad I held onto second – just, by about one second, I think it was in the end. So I’m as stoked as I can be.
“Like you saw, every second mattered and that showed you the importance of those bonus sprint seconds I got on the first day. That was the difference between second and third on the podium.”
Plapp knew that UAE Team Emirates were going to ramp up the speed on the climb, but he stuck to his own strategy for the ascent. “Mentally I was prepared for that, but I knew I didn’t want to go in too deep. I got sucked in and probably did hold that wheel for a bit too long, I did die a bit by the end.
“But like I said, mate, there was no racing there. It was just get myself from the bottom to the top as quickly as possible.”
The UAE Tour was always on the agenda, he said, having taken several leaves out of Adam Yates book from 2022 when the two were teammates at Ineos and Yates ran second behind Tadej Pogačar.
“I learned so much from him, it got me in a…
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