Aussie Welsford just edged for win in UAE Tour sprint
Australian racer Sam Welsford, a four-time world champ on the track, has again shown his liking for the roads as he sped to his first podium finish at a WorldTour cycling event in the UAE Tour.
But just like his distinguished sprint compatriot Caleb Ewan, who'd lost the narrowest of verdicts in another blanket finish on Monday, Welsford's breakthrough was tinged with frustration at being edged out for victory in Thursday's 174km fourth stage.
The Team DSM sprinter, showing all the long-range power that once made him a key part of Australia's world track pursuit team, made a long kick for home in a chaotic denouement amid a cross-headwind in Dubai Harbour and looked as if he was going to outpace a field featuring a host of the world's best.
But just as it looked as if he would add to the two brilliant stage wins he'd enjoyed at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina in January, the man from Perth was pipped by mere fractions of a wheel by Jumbo-Visma's Dutch runner-up Olav Kooij and UAE Team Emirates' Colombian Juan Sebastian Molano, who took the victory.
In the overall standings, Australian road race champion Luke Plapp, of Ineos Grenadiers, remains in second place, just seven seconds adrift of Belgian world champion Remco Evenepoel.
For the 27-year-old double Olympic medalist Welsford, though, a first podium finish in a WorldTour event was worth savouring, especially as behind him were sprint stars like Ewan (21st), Mark Cavendish (18th), Fernando Gaviria (11th), Tim Merlier (9th), Sam Bennett (8th) and Team Jayco AlUla's Dylan Groenewegen (5th).
"I thought I was first or second, I didn't even see Molano until I saw the finishing video, and I was like 'oh, s***', you know," Welsford told reporters at the finish.
"But I was pretty happy. You never die wondering if you go early and take your chances. So no regrets - and I'm even more motivated for tomorrow.
"It was a bit longer than I expected to the finish, and I could feel Olav coming up on my left. I didn't even see Molano, he came up with that much speed.
"But it's a good start to the three days of sprints we have at UAE, so I'm really excited to keep cracking onto the next one, improve the things we can and hopefully get on that top step."