Hello and welcome to stage 3 of the Abu Dhabi Tour from Al Ain (Al Qattara Souq) to Jebel Hafeet.
Welcome back for another stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour. Today we have the most important stage of the race - in terms of GC - with a summit finish. To bring you right up to speed, the peloton have covered 20km of 142-stage and we have a two man break up the road. They have 1'14 over the peloton.
Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling and Rafaâ Chtioui (Tun) Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team - who have been on the attack in the first two stages are up the road again once more. They've only established a 58-second lead on the peloton, however, with Astana, Team Sky and Movistar all sitting close to the front of the pack. As we have a mountain finish today the WorldTour team will be keen to take the win and secure the overall. Tomorrow's stage is 'just' an evening crit, although to be honest it promises to be more exciting that the first two stages. We should certainly see fireworks today though.
While we wait to see if this two-man break can push their advantage out any further, lets have a look at some of yesterday's and this morning's major news. We'll start with the fact that Elia Viviani took stage 2 here and now leads the race. The Italian is enjoying his first season at Team Sky and he's certainly finishing strongly. You can read all about his win, right here.
Yesterday saw a few riders leave the race though and we'll start with Paul Voss who was kicked off after starting a 'scuffle'. That's polite school yard language for fighting isn't it? Anyway, he lost his cool after being forced into the gutter by a rider in the intermediate sprint. At least while he was at the race he got to hold a hawk/eagle/owl/pigeon... I'm not quite sure what member of the ornithological family he's holding in the picture in this story.
And Boonen, he left the race too and in an ambulance no less but at least it wasn't Voss or one his feathered friends who put him there. The Belgian crashed with Theo Bos and his season is over, alas. We wish him an Bos all the best for their recoveries and hope to see them firing on all cylinders in 2016.
109km remaining from 142km
Back to the action here, just briefly, and the two leaders have 1'26 over the meandering peloton with 33km covered.
It might be a few days old but the Cyclingnews podcast - the last instalment - looks at the Giro d'Italia route for 2016 and includes interviews with Contador, Kittlel, Dumoulin and Basso about his retirement. If you've a spare 28 minutes then it's well worth a listen. You can download it (for free) here.
Slightly related to the Giro is the news that Richie Porte will skip it in 2016 and focus just on the Tour de France. He and Tejay van Garderen will target the July showpiece and both go for the GC. You can read our exclusive interview with Porte, right here.
Flat roads and heat on the menu for the riders so far here on stage 3 of the Abu Dhabi Tour. The final climb awaits though but at the moment break are holding their advantage at 1'22 over the peloton with 42km covered. That means we've 100km of stage remaining.
They may not be racing here but Contador, Froome and Quintana are in town for the UCI end of season prom. Awards will be given to winners of the World Tour - Valverde, Movistar, Spain, while there will also be a special award to the most media friendly team. There's also a Fair Play award. You can read that story, over here.
The peloton are now tracing a wide circle around the finishing city before crossing the Green Mubazzarah oasis to the start of the final climb. It's 10.8 km long, and the Jebel Hafeet reaches 1,025m on gradients that average 7.5% and touch 12% on the lower slopes. The climb, on a broad and well-surfaced road with long, open bends, eases into a short descent with 1.5km to go, before the shallow climb to the finish line.
98km remaining from 142km
The peloton have eased off and it allows the break to extend their advantage to 2'17. We've been racing for roughly an hour today.
87km remaining from 142km
55km of the stage covered and the two leaders push the time gap out to 2'33.
Not so much as a response from the peloton as the sign that the break are starting to consolidate - the time gap has dropped slightly to 2'11. 65km raced so far.
He's out here but not racing due to his shoulder injury but Mark Cavendish has been at the centre of the transfer market all summer. He's off to MTN for next but is it a gamble for him and the team? Read Patrick Fletcher's view on the move, right here.
69km remaining from 142km
Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling and Rafaâ Chtioui (Tun) Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team are the two men in the break and both have attacked in the first two stages of the race. Bazzana is just 4 seconds off GC but more importantly he leads the sprint classification. He'll be looking to extend that today.
Bazzana takes the intermediate sprint, as you'd imagine he would, and the peloton start to mount a form of chase with a few more teams beginning to organise themselves on the front of the peloton. Sky, Movistar and Saxo are all present and accounted for.
62km remaining from 142km
80km covered and the gap holds at 2'20.
The two leaders push on and find another 20 seconds on the main field so with around 50km of racing to go the lead is up to 2:40 on the bunch.
A reminder of where we stand on GC coming into the stage:
1 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky 7:23:08
2 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:04
4 Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:06
6 Soufiane Haddi (Mar) Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team
7 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step
8 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team 0:00:07
9 Federico Zurlo (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 0:00:08
10 Maxim Belkov (Rus) Team Katusha
We're closing in on the final/only climb of the day. The gap has come down to 1'39.
Nibali takes a bottle from a teammate, as Astana begin to move up as we head into the final 30km of racing.
The two leaders have just 1'18 at this point and despite a valiant effort they have little chance of pulling off a win today. Orica have moved up towards the front as they look to set up Chaves for the win. The Colombian is well-suited to the final climb.
27km remaining from 142km
Just 27km left and only ten of those are flat as Movistar move with Valverde a rider looking to close out his season with a win.
20km remaining as we approach the final intermediate sprint of the day. Then we'll head towards the final 11km climb to the line. The two leaders have 1'37 over the peloton.
Team Sky are now leading the peloton as they try and lead out Viviani towards the intermediate sprint, where they could take third.
15km to go and the lead to the break moves out to two minutes.
Chtioui kicks clear and takes the sprint. So that's one a piece from the break today. The peloton are at 2'14 with 13km to go. The climb will soon start.
Viviani takes third and that will help in the race for the points jersey. Guardini didn't contest that one. The gap is coming back down to around 1'40.
10km remaining from 142km
Chtioui is on the climb and he's alone now. But Astana and Lampre are both coming to the front of the peloton. The gap to Chtioui is just 34 seconds with 10km to go.
Viviani has sat up so just in case you were hoping for a miracle, we'll have a new race leader at the end of the stage.
Astana have the peloton entirely strung out and the lone leader is almost in sight. The gradient is fairly shallow at the moment but the road will kick up fairly soon.
It looks like Astana are riding for Nibali at the moment with the Italian last in line for the blue train. Chtioui is grinding his way up the climb but he's starting to suffer with 8.4km to go.
Four Astana riders on the front and with 8.7km go to and Chtioui has been caught. Game over for the break today.
Less than 40 riders left in the main field now as Astana lift the pace once more. Chaves is just sat on Nibali's rear wheel.
And Mancebo has been dropped. That's a bit of a surprise.
Valverde attacks but has been caught but a number or riders can't handle it as we're down to just 15 riders in the main field. Three Astana riders still on the front though. Poels is there for Sky, Ulissi is there for Lampre as we see Gilbert trying to chase back on.
6km remaining from 142km
Konig is there for Team Sky with Chaves there, still just sitting on Nibali's wheel. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, once a winner of the Dauphine, is also there.
Drapac have rider up there as well but it's all Astana on the front as they look to set up Nibali or Aru for the win and the overall.
And with 5.6km to go Nibali has attacked. He's joined by Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step and the pair have a slight gap. It's Poels who tries to shut this one down.
And the Team Sky rider kicks off the front but is being chased by Aru and Chaves. Is Aru really going to bring Chaves back into the mix? 5km to go.
And Chaves catches the leaders and attacks with the same move. Nibali realises the danger and goes with him.
And Chaves has attacked again and he's clear. Nibali has totally blown. Game, set and match with 4.5km to go. Poels leads a group that contains Aru and it's Aru that attacks having seen that Nibali has blown.
Poels leads the chase and is trying to bring back Aru but at the moment Chaves is riding away for the stage and the overall. No time gaps at the moment and Nibali has totally cracked now and can't keep up with Aru and Poels.
And Aru has gone again but once again Poels a-la-Froome just puts his head down and closes the gap. The gap to the Orica leader is 18 seconds with 3.6km to go.
The gap is 22 seconds with 3.3km to go as we see Poels and Aru link up once more. Nibali is back with Ulissi.
And now it's Aru's turn to struggle as Poels opens up a small gap. More riders meanwhile go passed Nibali.
And Poels attacks Aru on the steepest part of the climb. The gap to Chaves though is still out at 20 seconds with 2..6km to go.
The gap is coming down: it's at 15 seconds with 2.1km to go as the Team Sky rider starts to reel in the lone leader. Poels is now at 11 seconds.
Chaves responds and takes another couple of seconds. Surely he can't let this one slip through his fingers?
Chaves looks back and can see Poels behind him. The gap is just over 10 seconds with 1km to go. The road kicks up once more.
It's now nine seconds as Poels finds another second on the Orica climber.
And Aru hasn't given up either and he's still in third. Chaves looks back again and now Poels is on his wheel. A tremendous comeback but can he finish it off?
So two leaders with 700m to go.
Chaves leads Poels and now the Team Sky rider attacks.
Chaves tries to respond and around the corner Poels crashes.
Chaves takes the win. And Aru is second as Poels comes over the line unable to pedal. What a dramatic finale.
A muted celebration from Chaves who takes the win and the overall race lead with one day to go. Heartbreak for Poels though who caught the Colombian with 1km to go and looked to be in the best position after his attack.
Aru takes second place on the stage with Poels in third and Ulissi in fourth, just ahead of Janez Brajkovic (Slo) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling.
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results and photos from stage 3, right here.
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