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Abu Dhabi Tour 2017: Stage 3

Abu Dhabi Tour goes into the mountains today! Join us as the GC gets tumbled around and our expected final overall winner discovered!

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Welcome to the penultimate stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour – 140 km from Al Ain – Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium to Jabel Hafeet, with – surprise! -- a climb at the end!

Action should be getting underway in about 10 minutes.

 

Mark Cavendish is coming into this stage as race leader, but we can expect to see him lose that jersey today. No doubt he expects to do so as well.

The flag has dropped and the peloton has started on the neutralized section.

 

There is only a very narrow exit from the Stadium parking lot, so lots of riders are dodging around barriers. That was really so well planned.

 

Cavendish appears to have a problem with his saddle. He is at the side of the road, trying to adjust it himself, but now has had to call for help.

 

Looks like all is well again and he is on his way back to the field. Shouldn't be a problem in the neutralized section.

 

The real race has now started!

 

It is all very unsettled at this point, much looking around and trying to figure out who will attack, and so on.

 

Four riders have established a small gap. The field looks happy to let them go. 

 

179km remaining from 186km

The four are: Simone Andreetta (Bardiani), Pavel Brutt (Gazprom Rusvelo), Alan Marangoni (Nippo Vini Fantini) and Stephen Clancy (Novo Nordisk). They have a gap of 1.24 already.

We see Alberto Contador looking serious in the middle of the field. He may be considering how to win today, or how he can best support teammate Bauke Mollema to the win.

 

176km remaining from 186km

10 km into the stage and the gap has grown to 3:20.

 

We hear there is another race on today, somewhere in Belgium...... Check out our preview of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad here!

 

Back to the race at hand! 

The climb comes of course at the very end, for a middle mountain mountaintop finish. This stage will be more of an opportunity for the big name Grand Tour candidates to show their stuff. Sure, it is only one climb, but they can measure themselves against each other and perhaps do a little oneupmanship.

 

The race website describes the stage this way: “The third stage comprises both urban surroundings and mountains. The first part, inside Al Ain city, is all on wide roads with roundabouts and speed humps and is followed by a second part in the desert along wide and predominantly straight roads. At 15km to go, the route starts to rise slightly towards the final ascent, culminating in an uphill finish at an altitude of 1025m, following an 11km climb with slopes with an 11% gradient.”

And that final climb? “The final climb is on wide-ranging bends on a three-lane roadway. The gradient is mostly around 8-9% with a peak of 11% at 3km to go. There are short descents in the last kilometres before the final ramp with a straight finish on asphalt.”

 Stephen Clancy, in today's break group, was a successful junior cyclist when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 19. He was told that "extreme levels of exercise" could complicate the situation. But the young Irishman is now successfully taking care of both his health and his cycling career, 

158km remaining from 186km

The gap is now hovering around the 4:30 mark.

 

The Bardiani team car pays a quick visit to the lead group.

 

The top ten coming into today’s stage:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 8:05:03

2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:04

3 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:00:08

4 Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo - Vini Fantini st

5 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-Scott

6 Manuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team Emirates

7 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:10

8 Fabio Calabria (Aus) Team Novo Nordisk 0:00:11

9 Mirco Maestri (Ita) Bardiani CSF 0:00:12

10 Kazushige Kuboki (Jpn) Nippo - Vini Fantini

Right now they are out in the open desert. Nothing but sand and wind!

 

Cavendish leads the points ranking, ahead of Kittel and Greipel. Marco Canola of Nippo Vini Fantini leads the intermediate sprint ranking, while the best young rider is Caleb Ewan of Orica Scott. UAE Emirates is atop the team ranking.

150km remaining from 186km

Dimension Data doing its duty at the head of the peloton, as the gap nudges the five minute mark.

 

Marcel Kittel was happy to take the stage win yesterday, especially after the crash on stage one. It was certainly not the classic leadout in a bunch sprint win, rather he did this one more or less on his own

 

Adam Hansen, rider rep for the CPA, takes the disc brakes discussion to a new and unsettling level. "The sad thing is someone might have to take a bullet for change to happen," he told us yesterday. 

"There hasn’t been a really serious – like a fatal – accident yet, but as soon as there is ....."

141km remaining from 186km

Still a long long way to go but the gap has dropped from five minutes to 3:09.

 

Speaking of disc brakes: Kittel is no longer using them in Abu Dhabi, but his teammate Tom Boonen will be using them today in the Omloop.

 

You look to the left and see you are beating one of the best sprinters in the world. The finish line is rapidly approaching and you sit up and raise your arms in celebration -- only to see another of the best sprinters in the world on your right. Just ahead of you.

That's pretty much what happened yesterday to Caleb Ewan. 

 

Cavendish punctured and quickly gets a new front tyre. The pace is slow enough that he will have no trouble getting back in the bunch.

 

127km remaining from 186km

And now the gap is back up to 4:27.

 

Patrick Fletcher is at the race for us, and gives us this weather report: "Rain in the city this morning. Drizzle at the start. Dry now but grey and overcast. And it’s pretty windy."

Mark Cavendish hates to lose, but he is also realistic. "Today, in all honesty, without taking anything away from Marcel, Caleb was the strongest today," he said after yesterday's stage. "I went to pass him, and there wasn’t much chance of doing that."

 Looks like the field has just gone through the feed zone. Much digging around in bags and throwing of empty bidons.

Want to take another look at how stage 2 went yesterday? Check out this highlights video.

 

103km remaining from 186km

103 km to go and the gap is back down to 3:35. Andre Greipel takes the chance to stretch his legs and move to the front of the field.

 

Only 100 km left for the lead group!

 

A crash in the peloton takes down two riders, but no harm, both are up and going again.

 

The gap is really plummeting! Now down to 1:16, with 93k m still to go.

 

Red flags are up at the peloton to allow cars to pass.

Romain Bardet visits the team car for some quick bike repairs.

 

The peloton looks very relaxed. There is no real chase, no one team leading the way. It seems more as if they are simply putting in the necessary kilometers until the climb starts.

 

80km remaining from 186km

The gap is really bouncing around today. It is back up to 2:55.

 

What's the big difference between Sky and BMC? There isn't really much difference, says Nicolas Roche. "At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of guys riding a bicycle and at this stage, it’s going from one of the best teams to another one of the best teams, so the differences are very minor."

As far as we know, there is not really a sandstorm out there, as some are tweeting. There is wind and there was some sand on the road but all is well.

 

Trek is visible at the front of the peloton as is Movistar. Astana is close behind. Wait, do these teams have climbers hoping to win today?

 

Kittel taking a turn up front looking cool, except for the big bandage on his left elbow.

 

As we said, the gap is all over the place. With 64 km to go, it is at 4:30, but has just come down from nearly five minutes.

 

Apparently the race is indeed neutralized at the moment, due to blowing sand. Or maybe not. No one seems to know for sure.

 

The field just encountered a roundabout. They were supposed to go three-quarters around it, which most did. One rider took the short cut and thus moved up inside the peloton.

 

There really is all kinds of racing going on today. Over in Langkawi, Dimension Data's Mekseb Debesay won the stage.

 

48km remaining from 186km

48 km to go and a gap of 2:23.

 

Trek and Movistar at the front of the peloton. Contador and Quintana aren't going to let each other of their sight, it seems.

 

44km remaining from 186km

the gap is down again to under two minutes. The climb starts in about 34 km.

 

 Who are the top candidates to win today? Contador, Nibali, and Quintana surely spring to mind. But how about Aru, van Garderen, Majka, Dumoulin...... lots of options!

34km remaining from 186km

Under two minutes now. Soon things will start happening!

 

The peloton's speed and intensity have clearly picked up.

 

We are accustomed to seeing camels along the way, but giraffes`???

 

And now lions, and an explanation that this is a zoo.

 

Wind and sand should be less of a factor at the moment as they are riding into an urban area. But we see mountains looming ahead, too!

 

The intermediate sprint is coming up in 1 km.

 

It was a wild sprint, which started much too early. In the end, Andreetti won ahead of Marangoni and Clancy.

 

The end is becoming obvious. 22km and only 1:07.

 

And falling rapidly, now only 30 seconds

 

It has been a very long breakaway for this quartet, and they have represented their sponsors well.

 

The four leaders have already started looking back over their shoulders to try and figure out how much longer they have. 

 

The group lets their legs hang and are absorbed back into the field. Only Brutt hangs on to a few seconds' lead.

 

But with 14 km he too is caught, with Sky leading the way.

 

The sprinters sprinted for the final intermediate sprint! (Sorry, couldn't resist that). Looks like Kittel took it ahead of Cavendish.

 

 11 km to go and the climbing is about to start!

Movistar at the head of the group.

 

Cavendish takes it easy now at the back of the field. 

 

The field snakes up the wide smooth road.

 

9.3 km to go and Quintana attacks!

 

He is quickly joined by several other riders includnig Contador.

 

All togehter again up front.

 

Contador and Quintana no longer at the front. But with 7.7 km they have plenty of time.

 

The peloton has shed many riders. Roche is the next to drop back.

 

Three riders with a small gap.

 

None of them are the top riders, though.

 

Dumoulin and Zakarin mtry to move up too. Costa, Senni are up there.

 

Riders are spread all over the place and it is hard to tell who is where.

 

Zakarin and Rui Costa now in the lead, followed by two, followed by the favourites' group.

 

The second group of two may have been caught.. The larger group is some 23 seconds back.

 

A chase group of two at 16 seconds, the field at 38 seconds.

 

The second group is Dumoulin and Kruijswijck, although Dumoulin has pulled away.

 

3.7 km to go, gaps of 16 seconds and 32 seconds.

 

The two leaders are easily holding their gap. Dumoulin now alone in the chase. Contador and Quintana side by side.

 

Quintana and Contador take off, and catch the first of those ahead of them.

 

Contador's teammate Mollema is ahead of him, on the verge of catching Dumoulin. Bardet gives it a go, but Contador-Quintana-Nibali catch him.

 

A flat section for the two leaders, as Dumoulin moves up to within 10 secods with 1.8 km to go.

 

Mollema falls back to 22 seconds, with the favourtes now more than a minute down.

 

Dumoulin goes into time trial modus in his attempt to catch the two leaders.

 

Zakarin and Costa enter teh final km, with Dumoulin only 6 seconds back.

 

Zakarin and Costa pick up the speed, wanting to make out the win between thenselves. They have now distanced Dumoulin.

 

Zakarin gives it his all but Costa cruises past him on tone of the final curves to take the win. Dumoulin third at 9 seconds.

 

The group of favourites came in just under a minute later.

 

Top ten stage:

1 Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) 4:34.08

2 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha)

3 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) 0:10

4 Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) 0:28

5 Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep) 0:46

6 Fabio Aru (Astana)

7 Rafal Majka (Bora Hansgrohe)

8 George Bennett (LottoNL Jumbo)

9 Domenico Pozzovivo(AG2R)

10 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 0:58

And the top ten in GC:

1 Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) 12:39.15

2 Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) +0.04

3 Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) +0.16

4 Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo) +0.56

5 Rafal Makja (Bora Hansgrohe)  

6 George Bennett (LottoNL Jumbo)

7 Fabo Aru (Astana)

8 Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R)

9 Julian Alaphililppe (QuickStep)

10 Roman Bardet (AG2R) +1.08

Contador said coming into this race that he would ride for Mollema, and with the Dutchman up in front, Contador was content to stay with Nairo Quintana and simply match his every move.

 

That was an exciting and unexpected finish today! Tomorrow we can expect to see the top sprinters fight it out again. Thanks for reading along today.

Meanwhile, you can read our race report here.

And the cycling action continues with Omloop Het Nieuewsblad, live here!

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