Aussie champ Plapp still on Evenepoel hunt in UAE Tour
Luke Plapp has lost a couple more seconds to world champion Remco Evenepoel on a difficult day at the UAE Tour, but is still firmly in the hunt for the overall title in the WorldTour race.
On an afternoon when Dylan Groenewegen sprinted brilliantly to victory for his Australian team Jayco AlUla on stage five, national road race champion Plapp had to battle hard on Friday to limit his deficit in second place in the general classification to just nine seconds behind Evenepoel.
The Belgian superstar picked up his two valuable seconds in an intermediate sprint on the 170km run from Al Marjan Island to Umm al Quwain, and threatened to pick up even more time when Plapp and his Ineos Grenadiers teammates got caught on the wrong side when crosswinds split the peloton in the last 17km.
The 22-year-old Plapp, who started the day suggesting "there's still everything to play for", had to work harder than he'd have liked to get back on terms but did manage to rejoin the leaders to ensure no more damage was done.
"We were in a good position in the last 20km and that was good for us, especially when Plapp was temporarily dropped," Evenepoel told reporters.
"It was nice to extend my lead by two seconds as well as this race could come down to very small time gaps."
Groenewegen, the Dutch ace in Jayco AlUla's pack, produced a devastating burst to see off a high-quality sprint field, with two world-class adversaries Fernando Gaviria and Sam Bennett finishing runner-up and third, respectively.
It was his Australian team's second WorldTour victory of the year, following Simon Yates' victory on the fifth stage of the Tour Down Under, while Groenewegen had already shown his own sharp form with a win on the Saudi Tour earlier in February.
Lotto Dstny's Caleb Ewan again found himself out of position as he came home 14th, but Team DSM's flying Aussie Sam Welsford got himself into a much better spot before adding a sixth-place finish to his third place the day before.