Last call for the sprinters today at the Abu Dhabi Tour – 133km of pan flat racing to come through the heart of the city, and the fast men would be looking for one more opportunity to crank out some serious power in the finale.
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The time trialists and climbers get their chance on stages 4 and 5. Would we see our third different winner in the space of three days?
Despite a very quick start, 4 riders managed to break away from the pack after roughly 17km of counter attacks. Bardiani CSF’s Marco Maronese and Sam Brand of Novo Nordisk were joined by Sergey Firsanov of Gazprom Rusvelo and 3 time Grand Tour stage winner Pierre Rolland of EF Education First Drapac.
The first checkpoint en route was km46 – Maronese taking 8 points towards the intermediate sprints classification – Bardiani’s hard work over these opening stages means that they’ve got a lot of potential riders that could win this competition.
Gazprom-Rusvelo weren’t too happy about this however. They got on the front to shut down the break with 54km still to run, keen on keeping Nikolay Trusov in the black jersey. They had another chance to extend his lead at the 2nd intermediate sprint at km81, but Elia Viviani had other ideas – he added 3 bonus seconds here to cement his lead at the top of the overall standings.
The high pace continued up until a potentially important turn in the road, where the wind once again played its part, and several teams tried to force some splits like we saw yesterday. Alexander Kristoff and a handful of other riders were held up by a crash, but despite that brief moment of panic, the peloton held together as we headed down the long highway back towards the finish. Quick-Step Floors were beginning to take control at the head of affairs, led by young James Knox – if there was a classification for most time spent on the front, he’d be winning it.
Things kicked back into life in the final kilometer, Quickstep still had numbers, while Mitchelton-Scott were challenging with Luka Mezgec leading Caleb Ewan through the final right hand bend. In the end we saw our closest finish so far at the Abu Dhabi Tour, a blanket finish involving Viviani, Phil Bauhaus, Pascal Ackermann and Marcel Kittel. We had to go to the photo booth, and it was Bauhaus that nicked it at the line from Kittel, with Ackermann rounding out an all-German podium.
A first win of the season for Sunweb, and their young German sprinter will be delighted to have got the better of a very strong field.
Viviani took 4th on the day, and those bonus seconds give him an outright lead in the general classification. We don’t expect him to keep that red jersey for long though. Tomorrow is the first individual time trial in the short history of the Abu Dhabi Tour, and the specialists have brought their TT rigs to the middle east to tackle this 12.6km course, so you can expect some very fast times and a potential new leader in the overall standings.
Photos: © Bettiniphoto / & ©Tim De Waele /
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