With a strong time trial in the penultimate stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, Wilco Kelderman placed himself in contention for overall victory. Fifth place on the summit finish at Jebel Hafeet was an even better ride from the Dutchman though as he lifted himself into second place overall.
The overall title went to stage 5 winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 17 seconds ahead of Kelderman. The result though for the 26-year-old Sunweb rider is his best since also finishing second overall at the Tour du Poitou Charentes in 2016.
Fourth overall at the Vuelta a Espana last year, Kelderman is building his season around the Tour de France in 2018. The Abu Dhabi Tour is his first race of the season and the podium result a reassuring sign of a winter well spent working on his time trialling and climbing.
"I was in a really good position at the beginning of the stage and we tried to make the best out of it. The day went really well and me and Tom were going good on the last climb," Kelderman said. "He had a mechanical problem and needed to change bikes so I continued and rode my own race. I paced myself up the climb and in the end the result is pretty good. I'm happy with where I'm at and my performance here."
While Kelderman enjoyed a strong day out, for the second day running, teammate Tom Dumoulin had a torrid day with a mechanical ending his hopes of finishing the race on a high. With a touch over three kilometres left to climb, Dumoulin suffered his mechanical, climbing off his bike and throwing it up in the air in frustration. He then picked up his bike and remounted with no team car in sight. Dumoulin would eventually finish in 54th place, 5:38 minutes down on Valverde and slip from ninth on GC to 38th, 35 places lower than his podium place from 2017.
While Dumoulin had his bike issues, with Kelderman on the final podium and Phil Bauhaus taking a stage win, the race overall should be judged a success according to coach Aike Visbeek.
"Wilco felt good today so we chose to bring him into a good position to the climb," Visbeek said. "Tom paced for Wilco really well but suffered a mechanical so we did not have him to help Wilco in the last kilometre. Wilco rode a really strong climb and did a good job to take 5th and finish 2nd overall. The team did a great job all week – we’ve shown that we have a good level and can look forward to the next races."
Dumoulin's next race is Strade Bianche this coming weekend, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico in early March where he and the team will be hoping for better luck. Kelderman's next outing is likely to come later in the month at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. A race Kelderman last finished in 2015, he was a DNF on stage 1 in 2016, placing ninth overall and won the best young rider classification.
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