Nibali pays the price in UAE Tour

Early-season climb proves too much for Bahrain-Merida leader

Jumbo-Visma's punishing pace on Jebel Hafeet had many victims, not least Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). Nibali was shown the backdoor of the lead group on the summit finish of stage 3 of the UAE Tour with 5.7 kilometres remaining, saying later that he "paid for the rhythm" set by the Dutch squad.

Jabel Hafeet was the first opportunity this season for Nibali to test his legs on a climb under racing conditions. The UAE Tour is his opening race of the season having come straight from a high-altitude training camp in Tenerife. Prior to the race, Nibali had been tentative about his chances and it proved rightly so.

The Italian tapped away at his own rhythm, crossing the line 1:17 behind the stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), in a group containing Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) and Kenny Elissonde (Team Sky). With some months until his primary goal of the Giro d'Italia, he was fairly pleased with how it turned out.

"It was a performance in line with expectations," said Nibali. "When I dropped off, I continued with my own pace, but I climbed well enough, considering that I had re-joined a small group with [Damiano] Caruso before the attacks started again. I did it because I need such efforts. This is not an easy climb to handle, even for breathing, given the absence of vegetation."

Nibali is now sitting in 19th overall with a 1:32 deficit to the leader's jersey of Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). The overall classification is well out of reach at this point, but he will have another opportunity to test himself over a longer effort with the 20-kilometre Jebel Jais coming up on stage 6. First, the peloton is set to tackle the shorter, and considerably steeper, climb to Hatta Dam on Wednesday.

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