Patrick Bevin of BMC Racing produced the highlight of the week for New Zealand in the Abu Dhabi Tour, taking 8th place in stage 4’s individual time trial. The final mountain-top finish saw Alejandro Valverde take the stage and with it the overall crown with Wilco Kelderman and Miguel Angel Lopez completing the GC podium.
The 2018 season’s second World Tour stage race saw Kiwis Jack Bauer of Mitchelton-Scott, Patrick Bevin of BMC Racing and Alex Frame of Trek-Segafredo take to the start line, the three of them all with different objectives for their teams. The first three stages saw Alex Frame take centre stage with his sprint prowess put to the test against some of cycling’s household names. Frame was going up against Alexander Kristoff, Caleb Ewan, Elia Viviani, Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel in a star studded line-up of fast finishers.
Over the three stages the sprints were fast and furious and far from straightforward for A-Frame; who nevertheless showed consistency from day 1, taking three top 20 finishes; with 12th in stage 2 his best result.
Patrick Bevin was also towards the sharp end of the action during those opening stages, but it was his performance in stage 5’s individual time trial that was the highlight of the Tour. Earlier in the race Bevin spoke to Aaron S. Lee and announced that he would be targeting the opening time trial of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Early indications this season have certainly shown that he is heading in the right direction to do well in Jerusalem’s 9.7km time trial that will be the curtain opener for the 2018 Giro.
Stage 4’s TT in Abu Dhabi centred around Al Maryah Island, with a flat-ish 12.6km that would likely produce some very fast times. Fastest of those would be BMC Racing’s Rohan Dennis, with the Australian stopping the clock in 14.21mins; an impressive 14 seconds faster than nearest challenger Jonathan Castroviejo of Team Sky. It’s a testament to the strength of the BMC Racing team against the clock that four of the team’s seven riders placed in the top 10, with Dennis winning, Miles Scotson third at 16 seconds, Brent Bookwalter 6th at 17 seconds and Bevin slotting in 8th at 23 seconds.
His average speed of 51.312kph stopped the clock in 14.44mins, seeing Bevin leap up the standings from 20th overall to 7th on the eve of the final stage. It also put his BMC Racing team in the driver’s seat for the team classification.
A massive assault on the summit finish of Jebel Hafeet from the climbers though would tear the leader’s jersey from Dennis, the overnight leader, and place it finally on the shoulders of a very much in-form Alejandro Valverde. The 199km stage culminated in the 10.8km climb of Green Mountain, averaging a relatively tame 6.6% and maxing out at 11%.
After being pretty quiet throughout the tour, this was the climbers’ time to shine and they seized their opportunity. Valverde of Movistar, Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana and Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors were the strongest of the three, although it would be Lopez and Valverde who would contest the win 15 seconds clear of Alaphilippe, Rafal Majka of BORA-Hansgrohe and Wilco Kelderman of Team Sunweb.
Jack Bauer of Mitchelton-Scott was the first of the Kiwis home, having supported teammate Roman Kreuziger to 12th on the stage. Patrick Bevin crossed the line in the company of pocket rocket Caleb Ewan, while Alex Frame crossed the line just behind Stephen Cummings of Dimension Data.