Hello there and welcome back to the Cyclingnews live race centre for coverage of stage 3 of the UAE Tour. It's a big one today, as we're currently heading for Jebel Hafeet and the 10-kilometre final climb. It's one of two key summit finishes in the race along with... Jebel Hafeet again, two days later.
As we pick up the action, with around 115km to go, we have a breakaway of four riders clear of the peloton. They are:
Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal)
Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling)
Umberto Marengo (Vini Zabù-KTM)
Stijn Steels (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
They managed to carve out an advantage of seven minutes but that has come falling down in recent kilometres under increased pressure from the peloton, who are wary of crosswinds, it seems.
We grabbed a word with a few of the riders at the start. Adam Yates was one of them, and here's what he had to say about today's stage.
"It's the first big day. We’ll see. I came here a few days early to check out the climb. It’s going to be tough because already with the heat it’s 33. That’s not ideal for me but, like I said before, I’ll get stuck in.
"The climb is really tough. It’s a big road so it looks a lot shallower than it really is. You think it’s four or five percent but actually it’s closer to double that. It’s going to be tough and there’s a lot of competition."
My colleagues Daniel Benson and Sophie Smith are podcasting from the UAE Tour, and their latest offering covers the action from the opening two stages and, bizarrely, the Australian Emu War of the 1930s. For more on the emus (and to hear from Chris Froome, Adam Yates, and Sam Bennett), here's the link.
The gap between the four escapees and the peloton stands at five minutes with 100km to go.
There was a crash in the bunch a little earlier, with Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Carlos Rodgriguez (Ineos) among those to hit the deck. No serious harm done.
Speaking of Pozzovivo, we grabbed a word with the diminutive Italian at the start.
"I’m very happy to be back six months after my crash and big accident. I’m still trying to get to my original level, I’m on a good way but I still have work to do. I still need a couple more months for recovery and I still need to have one more screw removed from my tibia. After that I should be better.
"We’re discussing with the team if it’s better for me to do the Tour de France. It’s still under discussion. After the crash I was in a very bad way. It was a really bad fracture and it was difficult to predict how the recovery would go. At the start I could only think about recovering as a normal person and it was only after that, that I could think about becoming a professional again. I made some good improvements and that’s when I thought about coming back to the right level."
Jebel Hafeet is 10.8km long with an average gradient of 5.4%. It does, however, rise at 7-8% consistently for a good 7km, after a gentle start and before a finish that eases slightly and even includes a mini descent.
It's a power climb, on a smooth wide road and while the group of favourites will be whittled right down, the gaps between them aren't usually very big. Positioning on that mini descent and the kick back up into the tight final bend can be key. Alejandro Valverde won here last year, and the year before when it was the Abu Dhabi Tour. The others to have won here are Esteban Chaves, Rui Costa, and Tanel Kangert.
UAE Team Emirates have done a large amount of the pace-setting in the peloton so far today. This is their 'home race' and they're keen to make their mark. In Tadej Pogacar, they have one of the big favourites for today's stage and the overall title. The Slovenian, who had such an extraordinary debut professional campaign last year, comes here on the back of two stage wins and the overall title at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
Here's a look at our four breakaway riders (from left to right): Campenaerts, Steels, De Buyst, Marengo.
The gap is down to four minutes now, as we head into the final 80km and the final couple of hours of racing.
Chris Froome was dropped on yesterday's stage, but that wasn't much of a surprise. The Briton is only just making his comeback after eight months on the sidelines. Daniel Benson caught up with him yesterday and the four-time Tour de France winner revealed how he had to re-learn how to walk, and how he had to go under the knife for a third time in December after an infection from a previous surgery.
We also grabbed a word with Froome this morning.
"We’ll ride for Eddie," he said, referring to Ineos' Irish climber, Eddie Dunbar. "There’s no secret that he’s in good shape at the moment and we’ll do everything that we can to keep him up there today. We’ll go from there.
"It feels amazing just to be back in the peloton again. I’m definitely not at my normal shape, where I left off eight months ago, but I’ll get there. I’m confident that I’ll get there after these first few days. This has been a great step forward. I’ve still got a lot of training to do ahead of the Tour de France but this is a good step and the body is feeling good."
65km to go
Into the final 65km to go now and the gap has nudged down to 3:35. The peloton is lined out but there's no great urgency for the time being.
Along with UAE, Trek-Segafredo have been doing a lot of the work in the peloton. Their man is Giulio Ciccone, the 25-year-old Italian who had a brilliant season last year and has already won the Trofeo Laigueglia this term.
There are a number of riders who could be in with a shout today. We've mentioned Pogacar, Valverde, Yates, Ciccone, Dunbar, but there's also Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Wout Poels (Bahrain McLaren), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), James Knox (Deceuninck-QuickStep), and Ilnur Zakarin (CCC Team).
The gap continues to fall steadily. 3 minutes now, as we approach the final 50km.
Campenaerts takes a sticky bottle from his team car, takes a sip, and pours the rest all over his body. He also gets a pair of tights filled with ice cubes to shove down the back of his jersey. It's over 30 degrees out there.
45km to go
The breakaway riders are really trying to up the tempo now as we head into the final hour. The peloton is lined out, with UAE and Trek trading turns on the front, but the pace isn't too high for the time being, and some are still stopping for comfort breaks. 2:50 is the gap.
Pogacar is the man to beat, says Poels
"I feel really good and I’m looking forward to today. It’s the first mountain stage, it’s a nice one. I know the climb from the Abu Dhabi Tour. It’s suits me well," the Bahrain McLaren rider told us this morning.
"Pogacar is the guy to watch, for sure, if you saw him in Valencia. He’s in really good shape and for the UAE team it’s a really big race. The key on the climb is to not over-pace things, especially with the heat. If you go too quick then you’ll blow. You have to be careful."
Mitchelton-Scott have a man on the front as they look to tee up Yates. It's them, UAE, and Trek - no one else has done a turn for a good while.
The four leaders maintain a lead of 2:38 after lifting the tempo. They know, however, that there's no chance of staying away, and this is more of a training outing - at least for the WorldTour representatives. Indeed, some riders have said in the past that the Middle Eastern early-season races can be so gentle in the bunch that they actually 'de-train' and lose form.
35km to go
We're now approaching the first of two intermediate sprints. Marengo's teammate Veljko Stojnic wears the black jersey as leader of the intermediate sprints classification.
Marengo rolls across the sprint line on the front of the quartet before messaging in to say 'job done'. He was just making sure no one else would make inroads in that classification today, not that any of the other three showed any interest.
The next intermediate sprint is coming up in just over 15km' time. Expect more of the same.
Here's how the points were shared out at that sprint
Marengo - 8
De Buyst - 5
Steels - 3
Campenaerts - 1
30km to go
The gap drops to 2:15
Here's a closer look at the final climb.
Old pedals, tubular tyres, flipped shifters... there's plenty of interest on Mark Cavendish's bike. We've taken a closer look.
25km to go
Into the final 25 now and not long to go now until Jebel Hafeet, I promise. The gap is 1:45 now as the pace picks up in the bunch. More teams are starting to make their way up now, including Bora, Movistar, and Sunweb.
It's all change in the bunch and this now resembles a lead-out to a sprint, with teams forming trains across the road. Sunweb are on the left, then UAE, Trek, Astana, Bora, Movistar, Cofidis, Bahrain, Israel, Ineos.
Sprinter Fernando Gaviria is on the front for UAE. This is their home race and no one is spared any hard graft.
20km to go
Into the final 20km and the gap to the four breakaway riders is down to 1:15.
It looks like a gentle crosswind for the most part on the final climb.
15km to go
A big increase in tempo in the bunch now as we're just 5km from the climb. Israel Start Up Nation are keen to take control
The gap falls to 45 seconds. The breakaway riders will make it onto the climb but they're not going to get far up it.
We're coming up to the second intermediate sprint, and this time it's Campenaerts who takes maximum points by virtue of being on the front. Marengo did an early turn and only managed a point there.
The climb is 10.8km long, officially, so we're just over 2km from the bottom now.
Bora come to the front now as the gap plummets to 25 seconds.
And now Bahrain McLaren move up. Israel are still holding a strong position.
A gruppetto has already formed, with Cavendish and a number of other non-climbers.
With 11.5km to go, the breakaway quartet pass under the gate to the climb with a lead of just 10 seconds.
10.8km to go
Here we go then! The breakaway are caught just as the climb begins.
A reminder of what's ahead.
Campenaerts is the last survivor from the break and he continues his effort just ahead of the peloton, where Ineos have come to the front.
Campenaerts is back as Golas is done for Ineos.
Race leader Caleb Ewan is dropped now.
UAE and AG2R move to the front. It's a relaxed start to the climb and Campenaerts is still in third position.
Froome is dropped
The four-time Tour winner was dropped yesterday and he quickly loses contact again today.
Lotto move to the front. They have Carl Fredrik Hagen, who was so good at the Vuelta last year.
Attack from Quentin Jauregui (AG2R). The Frenchman takes off 9.3km to the top.
James Knox is dropped. That's more of a surprise. Not sure what's up with the British climber but he's back with his Deceuninck-QuickStep car.
Knox pours a bottle of water over his face. Maybe he's struggling with the heat.
CCC have taken up the chase of Jauregui.
Jauregui is caught with 8.4km to go.
It's Jan Hirt setting the pace for CCC, who still have four riders left here, including Zakarin.
CCC are really turning the screw now. Yates is up there behind them.
We're into the twisting section of the climb now before the more exposed straighter slog to the top.
Yates, Gaudu, and Pogacar are up there among the CCC train.
Hirt pulls over and now Victor de la Parte takes it on for CCC. It turns into an attack, and the Spaniard is away.
Poels is losing contact with 7.2km to go. Bad news for Bahrain.
Just 20 riders left now in the main bunch, 10 seconds behind De la Parte. CCC's work has really thinned things out.
A counter-attack now from Astana, and it's Merhawi Kudus.
De la Parte is out of the saddle and grimacing. He's putting pressure on the other teams here, with Zakarin clearly feeling good behind. Kudus isn't making any inroads.
De la Parte has 15 seconds in hand with 6.3km to go.
Mitchelton-Scott have taken the reigns in the group of favourites, with Tsgabu Grmay ahead of Yates.
Correction. De la Parte has 15 seconds over Kudus. The gap to the main bunch of favourites is actually 24 seconds.
5.9km from the summit and the British climber makes his move. Lutsenko jumps on it, as does Gaudu.
The three of them cruise past Kudus and De la Parte
The Spaniard won't be winning on Jebel Hafeet for a third year in a row. That's a bit of a surprise to see him so far off the pace.
Yates, Lutsenko, and Gaudu have opened up a handsome margin over a group that now contains just a dozen riders.
Yates goes again! He wants to get away from the other two and dances convincingly clear with 5km to go
Counter attack from Pogacar! The Slovenian senses the danger and hits out in pursuit.
Valverde is already a minute behind Yates.
Pogacar is making his way over to Lutsenko and Gaudu with apparent ease.
Yates works his way up the climb out of the saddle, while Pogacar remains seated as he joins Gaudu and Lutsenko and sits in behind for a moment.
It's only a brief bit of respite, though. The other two start looking at him, the pace drops, and Pogacar attacks them and moves clear.
Lutsenko manages to drag his way back to Pogacar. They're 18 seconds behind Yates with 3.8km to go.
Lutsenko comes through for a turn now and these two will be a force if they work together. Gaudu has lost contact.
3.5km to go and Yates, now seated, takes out another few seconds to make it 26 seconds over Pogacar and Lutsenko.
They're playing games in the main chase group down the mountain.
Yates looks like he's on his way to victory. He has 33 seconds now. The steepest part of the climb is just ahead but the last couple of kilometres are more gentle.
Pogacar attacks Lutsenko again. But he has 37 seconds to make up, with just 2.8km to go.
Pogacar can see Yates on this long straight part of the climb, but he's still nearly 40 seconds in arrears.
Yates is still gaining on Pogacar here. 43 seconds now as he enters the final 2km.
Pogacar is fading and fighting with his bike. Yates is still a picture of composure.
Into the final 1500 metres for Yates, and he's putting 1:40 into the main group of favourites here, which is huge on this sort of climb. A lot of riders wiped of overall contention already.
The gradients have eased and they're turning a bigger gear. Yates heads under the flamme rouge with 43 seconds still in hand. Barring accident, he has this sewn up.
The road will soon dip down before kicking back up to the final bend and home straight.
700m to go and Yates buries his head in his bars and tries to squeeze out every watt. 50 seconds now over Pogacar and this is a hefty downpayment on overall victory.
Yates takes on the downhill section.
Back uphill again now and he's out of the saddle and into the final bend.
Yates sits up, raises his arms and crosses the line
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) wins stage 3 of the UAE Tour
Pogacar is in damage limitation mode here as he sprints up the final rise. The clock is ticking and he grimaces as he enters the final bend. Across the line and the gap is more than a minute! 1:02 to be exact. Wow.
And now the sprint for third. Majka has joined Lutsenko and Gaudu.
Lutsenko takes it ahead of Gaudu and then Majka. They cross the line 1:29 down on Yates.
The remnants of the main group come home now. Ulissi, Konrad, Izaguirre, Herrada, Dunbar, Kelderman at 1:56.
Formolo and Pozzovivo are next a few seconds later.
Zakarin loses more than two minutes.
Valverde and Ciccone finish now 2:37 down on Yates.
Never have we seen so much damage done on Jebel Hafeet. Pogacar didn't respond when Yates attacked some 6km from the summit, and that was arguably a mistake. However, you have to wonder whether it would have made any difference at all, given the way Yates continued to gain more and more time all the way to the top. A devastating display from the British climber, who has ample margin for error when we return to Jebel Hafeet on Thursday for the next and final showdown in the battle for the overall title. It's going to take something special to stop him winning this race.
1. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) - 04:42:33
2. Tadej Pocagar (UAE Team Emirates) +01:03
3. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) - +1:30
4. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)
5. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe)
6. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) +1:56
7. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe)
8. Gorka Izaguirre (Astana)
9. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis)
10. Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos)
General Classification after stage 3
1. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) - 12:30:02
2. Tadej Pocagar (UAE Team Emirates) +01:07
3. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) +1:35
4. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) +1:40
5. Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe)
6. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) +2:06
7. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates)
8. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe)
9. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis)
10. Eddie Dunbar (Team Ineos)
Let's hear from Yates
"It's my first race of the season, so it's difficult to know how everyone's going. I just really wanted to test my legs and see where I am, so I attacked maybe a little too early, but in the end I felt good. There were a few guys who started to come up and I could see behind they started to get organised and there was a bit of a chase, so I just committed, and if they came back they came back, but in the end I felt good and managed to stay away."
As for his prospects of maintaining the overall lead until the conclusion of the race...
"A minute is a lot, but we have to do this climb again, and maybe my legs won't be so good then. Also tomorrow I heard a rumour there are going to be crosswinds, so we'll see. I've got a good group around me and I'll try and hold onto the lead as long as possible."
Here's our report page
The finish line shot
And Yates in the leader's jersey
That's it from us today. We'll be back here tomorrow for live coverage of stage 4, which is likely to end in a bunch sprint, ahead of our return to Jebel Hafeet on Thursday. We'll have all the news and reaction from Abu Dhabi on the way on the site shortly. Bye.
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