Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) was not considered a pre-stage favourite for the 17 per cent climb to Hatta Dam at the Dubai Tour but proved his third place in 2015 was no fluke with a perfectly-timed, and perfectly executed, victory that overshadowed the likes of Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC).
The Spanish Classics rider and sprinter is better known for his numerous placing rather than his victories but left his rivals in his wake, putting two seconds into Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and having enough of a lead to celebrate his first win of 2016 with a gesture to his recently born son.
“I knew that going into the last curve being well-positioned was going to be very important. Last year, I wasn’t able to do that, but this year I was able to be well-positioned and I managed to finish off the job for the team,” he said after climbing off the podium, overlooking the reservoir behind Hatta Dam.
"This victory is for my son, José, who was born three months ago, and of course Adriano Malori –injured in a crash at the Tour de San Luis. I hope he can return to Italy soon and recover perfectly well. Everyone at this team thinks of him every day."
Under pressure to be the next Oscar Freire
Lobato is often compared to Oscar Freire for his fast finish and ability in the sprints but has often suffered under the weight of expectation.
“I just hope to have half of the success he has on his palmarès,” Lobato said in praise of Freire. "I've worked really hard during the winter, and this is a reward for that sacrifice, a proof that my condition is perfect at the moment and an extra boost of morale for the spring.
“I want to do well in the Classics this spring. People have often talked about my chances for Milan-San Remo. The team likes the race, and I love it too. I just hope my form can keep improving. I put too much pressure on myself last season and couldn't be up there. Let's hope we make it in 2016. I’m also thinking about the other Classics: Gent-Wevelgem and even the Tour of Flanders... I won't focus entirely on them, to avoid too much pressure, but I'd still like to give them a try.”
Lobato is only two seconds behind new race leader Nizzolo in the overall standings before Saturday’s final flat stage. Kittel could arguably be Nizzolo’s biggest threat, but it would be a mistake to underestimate Lobato.
“I still stand a chance to win overall,” he said. “I'm happy with today's success but last year I took a few risks in that sprint finish and even got third place. You never know overall victory is still within my reach.”
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