WorldTeam Harm Vanhoucke shows climbing legs at UAE Tour
Lotto Soudal youngster Harm Vanhoucke showed his climbing legs during the third stage of the UAE Tour. The 23-year-old Lotto Soudal rider finished fifth atop the race’s first summit finish, Jebel Hafeet. Also Thomas De Gendt showed himself during the stage, the Belgian went on the attack with Gallopin.
Although the duo De Gendt-Gallopin had a maximal advantage of over six minutes, the straight desert roads made it almost impossible to stay ahead. Following 150 flat kilometres, the finish line was drawn atop Jebel Hafeet, a ten kilometres long climb. De Gendt was caught on the first slopes by a charging peloton, Gallopin pushed on, but had to throw in the towel only moments later.
Already during the first kilometres of the ascent, the peloton was heavily reduced. Harm Vanhoucke was able to stay in the wheels of the favourites and was part of an elite group that would fight for victory. The American Kuss started the attacks, but soon A. Yates and PogaÄar showed to be the strongest and went clear. The Slovenian sprinted to victory, Harm Vanhoucke was part of the chasing group and was only beaten by Higuita and Buchmann in the sprint for third place.
“Of course I am happy to finish fifth in such a strong field of riders. It also feels nice to confirm my performances at the Giro last year. The pre-race goal was to finish inside the top ten, so a fifth place is really nice”, begins Harm Vanhoucke.
“Also today, we had to be cautious for possible echelons forming, but the team kept me at the front all day long. That way, I could save some power and start the climb relatively fresh. I immediately got into a nice rhythm, but still it was all about trying to follow as long as I could. Such climbs of around ten kilometres with some steep parts really suit me. After the attack of Yates and PogaÄar, only four riders remained in the chasing group. Positioning ahead of the final corner was crucial and eventually, I was able to take fifth place.”
“Going into this race, I was kind of worried about stages like these. Switching to the small ring after such a long and flat run-in is not easy at all. You’re suddenly going from pushing 150 Watts all day long to 400 Watts and more. And that is something I’ve had difficulties with in the past. Luckily, it went a lot better today. I feel that I am also making progress in such stages, which is definitely a positive signal for the future.”
His fifth place saw Vanhoucke make a big leap in the general classification. The young Belgian now sits 14th overall, but aims for more.
“Unfortunately, I lost quite some time in the opening stage. The next mountain stage includes some more climbs before the finish, which should suit me even better. Of course, I want to be up there again and get a nice result. That way, I can hopefully still move up some places on the general classification. A lot of riders lost quite some time today, so maybe the top ten is still possible. That would be a really nice result at WorldTour level”, concludes Harm Vanhoucke.