Unstoppable UAE Team Emirates - Is a podium sweep possible at the Tour de France?

The Emirati team’s performance at the Tour de Suisse is a sign that they are going to be hard to beat in this year’s Tour

The way in which Tadej Pogačar dominated the Giro d’Italia a few weeks ago might have once been thought of as impossible in modern cycling. One rider to be so far ahead of the rest (almost 10 minutes on the general classification, to be precise) in an era where so many teams have access to the best of the best technology, equipment and training techniques is as puzzling as it is impressive. Pogačar is a rider who keeps defying expectations, creating a sense of feeling that when he stands on the start line of a race, nothing is out of the question. It seems that the Slovenian rider’s boundless talent is not just confined to himself, either. 

At the Tour de Suisse last week, Pogačar’s teammates, João Almeida and Adam Yates, took control of the seven-day stage race with a sense of power and domination that is almost directly comparable to what Pogačar did in the Giro just a few weeks before. They say that success breeds success, and UAE Team Emirates’ performances go a long way to justify that claim.

Once the opening prologue, sprint and transitional stages were out of the way in Switzerland and the race headed into the mountains, Yates and Almeida were unstoppable. On stage four, the team in white took control on the Gotthardpass, with Yates snatching the race lead and coming close to a stage win to boot. The following day, the British rider secured a commanding victory in the yellow jersey, with his closest challenger being his own teammate in Almeida (who beat other GC contenders even after working for Yates lower down the climb to the finish). 

While stage six was shortened to a punchy 42 kilometres due to adverse weather conditions atop the high passages, UAE Team Emirates still showed their strength, with Yates attacking until eventually Almeida leapfrogged him for the stage win. In the final road stage of the race, the dynamic duo crossed the finish line arm-in-arm, 15 seconds ahead of their closest rivals, with only the individual time trial on the last day left to decide who would eventually take home the overall GC. This was a race between two teammates, with the rest of the peloton left to scramble for scraps behind them.

And on the day of the time trial, what was the outcome? You guessed it: another UAE one-two, with Almeida taking the stage win and Yates finishing second, holding on to the race lead. The overall race victory and four stage wins amounted to a triumphant week in the Swiss mountains for UAE Team Emirates – so much so that it is hard to believe that these prolific winners are Pogačar’s Tour de France domestiques.

It’s for this reason that the performances of Yates and Almeida will surely instil a sense of fear into Pogačar’s key Tour de France rivals, namely the team of defending champion Jonas Vingegaard, Visma-Lease a Bike. We all saw what Pogačar could do at the Giro d’Italia without even his strongest team around him – what sort of damage will he be able to do in France with a flying Yates and Almeida by his side?

Vingegaard’s form remains relatively unknown ahead of the Tour, but his team has suffered considerable bad luck in the run-up to the race, with Steven Kruijswijk and Dylan van Baarle both crashing at the Critérium du Dauphiné recently. The contrasts between the two rival teams in the approach to the Tour de France could not be starker.

Of course, there will always be others trying to challenge the dominance of UAE Team Emirates. At the Tour de Suisse, for example, we saw promising signs from Ineos Grenadiers as Egan Bernal continued his impressive comeback with a fourth place on the general classification and Tom Pidcock was not far behind in sixth. The British squad tried to take on the race in stage seven, but they simply could not match the power of the UAE pairing. While Ineos can take confidence from their show in Switzerland, it seems fanciful to suggest that Pidcock or Bernal will be in the type of form to challenge the favourites at the Tour this year, especially given the apparent ease with which Yates rode away from them last week.

So, could we see a clean sweep of the Tour de France podium by one team in 2024? It’s not something that has been done at the Tour in the modern era, but UAE Team Emirates are making it really seem plausible this year. Pogačar's stunning Giro performance is more than enough proof of his current form, and the showing from his teammates at the Tour de Suisse in Yates and Almeida is an encouraging sign that UAE also have the best of the rest in their line-up. And we haven't even mentioned Juan Ayuso yet. Vingegaard is the main unknown ahead of the Tour, but it’s difficult to imagine how his form will be on par with those who have been able to prepare by racing in the run-up. 

Either way, the Tour de Suisse proved that while other teams, such as the Ineos Grenadiers, are steadily making their own progress, that progression is simply happening at a very different pace to that of UAE Team Emirates. The collective strength of the Emirati team is a daunting prospect ahead of la Grande Boucle. With just over a week remaining until the Grand Départ all we can say is, good luck to the rest of the peloton.

Shop now