Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) confirmed his status as one of the best uphill sprinters in the world when he turned out to be in a class of his own on the queen stage of the Dubai Tour. With a powerful surge from the bottom of the 200m, 20% ramp to the finish in Hatta Dam, he easily distanced some of the best puncheurs in the world and put two seconds into a surprisingly strong Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) who took the overall lead. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) was a hugely surprising sixth and like Lobato is within shooting distance ahead of the final stage.
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Juan Jose Lobato: Now my goal is to win Milan-Sanremo
A bitter third place last year behind team-mate Alejandro Valverde and John Degenkolb, following a busy, productive winter and after not finding the good luck he needed to repeat success Down Under, Juanjo Lobato was finally able to dedicate a win to his 3-month-old son José on Friday, raising his arms victorious for the first time in 2016 atop the Hatta Dam on stage three of the Dubai Tour (172km). The Trebujena-born rider comfortably beat Giacomo Nizzolo (TFS) and Silvan Dillier (BMC) to claim his 12th success in the pro scene, the Movistar Team's second in 2016 and the first for Spanish cycling this season.
The Movistar Team saved all energy for the end on a stage controlled by Sky from start to finish. The riders directed by Chente García Acosta started going after the moves on the slopes prior to the finish, 12km from the line. Jasha Sütterlin and Marc Soler covered the moves at the front and kept the peloton together, as Oliveira, Castroviejo and Dowsett set up a brilliant leadout for the Andalusian, who started off the climb into the first ten of the bunch and always had Gorka Izagirre behind as pressure relief and second chance.
On the 200m decisive climb, Lobato was simply superior to his rivals, with Izagirre in a fine seventh place that puts the duo in 2nd and 5th overall; Nizzolo is the new leader with only 2" over Lobato. The final stage, 137km around skyscrapers in Dubai, will offer two intermediate sprints (3-2-1) and an additional 10-6-4 bonus at the finish, all of which could turn things around on the GC.
"This victory makes me immensely excited and happy - I owe everything to my team-mates for their support. We knew we had to stay calm until the downhill after the last climb and give everything afterwards. They all were phenomenal in the finale, just like throughout the race. I knew the climb from last year's finish and it was one that really liked and suited me. I learnt there that being in a good position in that last corner right was crucial; last year I couldn't get things done right, but this time was the good one,” Lobato said.
"I knew this finale from last year and it's exactly the kind of finish that I like. It was all about being well positioned before the last climb and I was indeed. I'm very happy to get my first win of the year here. Tomorrow I'll see if I get a chance to fight for the overall win. If not I'll pursue further goals later on. I'm already happy with what I achieved today.
"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 - it's been long spoken about Sanremo and me; the team likes the race, I personally love it and I want to keep that form coming. I put too much pressure on myself last season and couldn't be up there - let's hope we make it in 2016. I also think about those other classics: Gent-Wevelgem, De Ronde... I won't focus entirely on them, to avoid that pressure, but I'd still like to give them a try.
“After this, my goal is to win Milan-Sanremo. That's my dream as a rider. If only I could win half of what my compatriot Oscar Freire won in his career, I'd be over the moon.
"For the time being, I'm already very happy to get my first win of the season here. Tomorrow? Let's hope I still stand a chance to win overall; I'm happy with today's success, but last year I took more risks in that flat finish and even got a 3rd place. You never know; it's still within my reach. This victory is a tribute to my son, José, born three months ago, and Adriano Malori. I hope he can return to Italy soon and recover perfectly well. Everyone at this team thinks of him every day."
Surpringsly strong Giacomo Nizzolo: This second place is not a disappointment
Giacomo Nizzolo gave everything up the final short but painfully steep climb towards the Hatta Dam to finish in second place and leap into the overall lead in the Dubai Tour Friday. The only hills in the four-day race arrived in the final kilometers of the 172-kilometer stage three, but they proved no hazard to the sprinters who ruled the punchy finale.
Juan José Lobato (Movistar) claimed the win with Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) crossing the line in third, followed by Fabian Cancellara in fourth.
"To be honest, I didn't know this finish, and I thought it was a bit longer," explained Nizzolo. "When we hit the last corner, I had in front of me only [Philippe] Gilbert and Fabian, so I was waiting a bit. When I saw Lobato coming from behind, then I thought, 'Ah, maybe the finish is very close, so I'd better go!"
Consistency paid off for the Trek-Segafredo sprinter who notched his third successive podium in the race to shoulder the leader's jersey. Nizzolo will take a slim two-second lead into the final stage Saturday, setting up an exciting sprint battle between second-placed Lobato and Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step), six seconds behind.
"It's a pity to be second again, but still I can say I am happy because I have been on the podium in the two flat stages and today again on an uphill finish," added Nizzolo. "And I am in the leader's jersey – that's also good news!
"After two podiums on the flat stages, it's satisfying to finish second uphill here. It's a good sign. My form is good. The last climb was just a strong and brutal effort. I hope that I can keep the jersey tomorrow – we'll give 100% for that.
“It’s another placing for me, but I’m satisfied because I’m in the leader’s jersey, and we’ve got a good chance of winning the overall. My consistency is a sign that I’ve worked hard this winter.
“I don’t want to get too obsessed about winning a race; I’ve just got to keep doing my best and see what happens. This time, I was second and people have quickly pointed that out, but on this kind of tough finish, I could easily have finished outside the top five or even top ten. I’m happy and take whatever comes my way.
"It will be hard tomorrow, but first we will enjoy tonight and tomorrow we will see.
“This is a finish that suited Fabian but I’d taken time bonuses in the last two days, and so I had carte blanche to ride my own race,” he said. “We rode well together as a team to ensure we were both up there. We tried to do our best and second and fourth is a pretty good result.
“Lobato isn’t a surprise winner for me. I wasn’t here last year, but I’d seen the video and noted that he moved back up on the climb and finished strong. I expected him to be up there. Just before the climb kicked up, I was waiting for Gilbert and Cancellara to blow the race apart, but when Lobato went so strongly, I knew I had to go too. He was super strong, and I could only limit the damage. It’s a tough climb, but it’s a short effort, that suits fast finishers like me who can produce the power though I wisely used the 39 chainring with a pretty small cog down the back.”
“They say the best defence is to attack, but it’s complicated because there are also the time bonuses at the intermediate sprints. The important thing is to have the lead rather than be chasing time. We’ll see what happens, but we have to be confident.
“I’ve done a lot of racing with the Tour Down Under and the Dubai Tour, and so I’ll be able to enjoy a week at home. Then I’ll probably go to a team training camp before the first races in Belgium – Omloop and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. I’ll probably do Tirreno-Adriatico to prepare for Milan-San Remo and then do some of the Belgian Classics such as Gent-Wevelgem. I’ve also got to think of the Giro d’Italia, which is an important goal for me.”
Trek-Segafredo threw down two cards in the finale, leading out both Cancellara and Nizzolo. In the end, the fast legs of Nizzolo mastered the steep grade, and Cancellara again flashed his form with a solid fourth place.
It will be all hands on deck tomorrow in a winner-take-all ending, but the team has shown they have the firepower to match any team in the chaotic stage finishes.
Silvan Dillier overshadows team leader Gilbert on Hatta climb
Silvan Dillier has finished third, and Philippe Gilbert fifth, on the Hatta Dam climb on stage 3 of the Dubai Tour taken out by Juan José Lobato (Movistar). A five-man breakaway went away for most of the stage, before the peloton pulled them back closing in on the short, but steep Hatta Dam finish.
BMC Racing Team hit the front of the peloton with one kilometer to go, with Samuel Sánchez bringing Dillier and Gilbert to the final corner, before the last push to the finish. Dillier's third place finish follows his involvement in the breakaway on stage 2 yesterday, where he picked up 5 bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints.
He now sits fourth overall in the General Classification, 12 seconds behind new race leader Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo). Gilbert is in sixth place, 21 seconds behind.
"It was a pretty hectic finish with some corners and speed bumps. We tried to stay calm until the last moment. I felt really good, I tried to stay with the team. Unfortunately I lost the wheel of Samuel Sánchez who did a really good job in getting us through the peloton smoothly and put Phil in a good position at the bottom of the climb. In the end I got third. It was a nice effort at the end and hopefully I gained a few places in the GC," Dillier said.
"The whole day it was a little bit windy and stressful as you're never sure what's going to happen so you need to be focused all the time, and always have some power on the pedals."
In his first race of the season, Dillier is happy with his form.
"My shape is good and I'm also on track with my Track World Championships preparation. I feel good. Yesterday was a nice stage in the breakaway and then today finishing third, so all good so far."
The Dubai Tour wraps up tomorrow with a 137 kilometer flat stage through the heart of Dubai.
Marcel Kittel defies expectations on brutally steep wall in Dubai
Thanks to the excellent job of his teammates, who rode hard at the front in the last 15 kilometers and made sure of getting him in a good position, Marcel Kittel crossed the line in 6th place, just 4 seconds off the pace. Victorious in stage 1, the 27-year-old rider of Etixx – Quick-Step proved once again his condition and strong motivation in this start of the season, and remains in the cards to win the third edition of the race.
"As we didn't have to defend the blue jersey, we took a more relaxed approach throughout the day and stayed more in the background, in order to save as much energy as possible. Our focus was on the finish, to make it into the front for the uphill sprint. Things went really well, we worked as a team, and I'm quite happy with my result. Everything is still possible tomorrow and we are very motivated to give it all", said the German after the penultimate stage to the team website.
Marcel Kittel now lies third in the general classification, just 6 seconds behind Giacolo Nizzolo, the new leader of the Dubai Tour. The last day of the Middle East event (Dubai – Burj Khalifa, 137 kilometers) is going to be a flat one, in which the sprinters will fight for the bonus seconds that will decide the overall winner.
Daniele Bennati tests his classics form, Rogers abandons
Daniele Bennati moved to eighth overall after the hardest stage of the race to Hatta Dam. “Today we gave it a try,” said Bennati. “This eighth place is still a good sign that my form is building. It's also important to try to assess our preparation ahead of the major races of the season”
The third stage of the Dubai Tour set off from Dubai to finish after 172 km on the Hatta Dam climb. Soon after the first kilometer of the race, a breakaway was formed, marking most of this stage, with six riders who took a maximum advantage of two minutes, while the peloton worked to keep the gap under control.
With 12 km to go, the last escapee was brought back in while on the last climb before the final stretch, three men managed to peel off the peloton and earn a dozen seconds before they were brought back within 5 km from the finish, thanks also to Juraj Sagan’s impressive work.
“The break actually started right at the beginning of the race,” admits Jurai Sagan, “with riders from minor teams. The big teams however were controlling the break, always keeping it at about 2 minutes. Only in the last 20-30 kilometers the race was a bit more challenging with two demanding climbs. The peloton was a bit stretched giving thus a chance to the strongest riders to be in the top positions. Since then we gave it all we had until the end because we knew we could make a difference in that final stretch. We didn't want to leave too many riders at the front, so I went there to take the lead. However before the finish the group was already bunched up.”
Michael Rogers, the squad's road captain in Dubai, didn't take the start of the third stage. The Australian rider felt he hadn't reached yet the optimal fitness condition that would allow him to compete at such high level.
The final kilometers saw the teams battling it out to gain the best position for the final climb towards Hatta Dam, approached at a relatively high speed. Daniele Bennati managed to start the climb in the front of the peloton, giving his best during the sprint in the last few hundred meters, with a gradient that topped at 17%. In the finale Tinkoff 's Italian rider was able to finish in the top ten, taking eighth, just 7 seconds behind the stage winner.
Sport director Bruno Cenghialta commented: “The most important teams worked for their leaders, especially in the last 20 km when the race got more demanding, to keep them in top positions before the last kilometer. The wind, which was supposed to be pretty insidious today, didn't have any major impact on the race.”
“Today we gave it a try,” said Daniele Bennati. “This eighth place is still a good sign that my form is building. It's also important to try to assess our preparation ahead of the major races where I will be ready to support Peter Sagan. Today the pace was very fast, over 40 km/h average and I think tomorrow we'll have a very fast stage with a final bunch sprint as expected from this course.”
Tomorrow is the fourth and final stage of the Dubai Tour, the shortest one, only 137 km long, with the finish set in the shadow of Burj Khalifa. It will be another mostly flat stage that will probably be decided in the sprint. The winding roads towards the finale will be decisive in positioning the riders and planning the work of the lead out trains.
There are two intermediate sprints with bonuses which could be crucial to determine the final GC.
Davide Rebellin still competitive with top 10 in Dubai queen stage
For the second consecutive time, a CCC Sprandi Polkowice rider made the top 10 on the Dubai Tour stage. Davide Rebellin finished 9th on the hardest day of racing and proved that he has still a lot of motivation and power in his legs.
“The last 5 kilometers were extremely fast and you had to be at the head of the group to be in the contention. If somebody had a podium in mind, one had the take the last corner in the top 5 positions. I was around 10th. The last climb was steep but short so the sprinters were not ruled out of the fight for the victory. I’m happy with my 9th place and my form that I am presenting in the first race of the season,” Davide Rebellin explained.
Davide Rebellin arrived 7 seconds back in 9th place. He also moved to 9th in the general classification.
Young Moroccan defends best young rider’s jersey in Dubai queen stage
Soufiane Haddi (Skydive Dubai) created a surprise by defending the white jersey of best young rider.
"It's been a very difficult stage,” he said. “With the wind, we were always on the edge of getting echelons formed. It was a very fast pace at the end but my friends worked very well for me. My friend Andrea Palini who is a very good sprinter himself made the last effort for me to finish the race in such a position that I can keep the White Jersey. This is already an achievement.
“It's my first time performing in the Dubai Tour. Last I didn't even manage to complete the race, I crashed in a downhill.
“Tomorrow is the last stage and we'll do everything we can to keep the Best Young Rider Jersey. It would be fabulous for the Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team here."
Aggressive Westra laments Swift tactic in Dubai queen stage
“Our tactic was to make the race harder,” said Astana’s Laurens De Vreese.” That’s why we left the bunch on the first climb”.
With only 9 km to go, Dmitriy Gruzdev, Lieuwe Westra and Laurens De Vreese decided to attack.
“We should try from afar,” commented sports director Dmitri Sedoun,” because the final climb was not suited to our characteristics.”
"This morning at the hotel we agreed during the team meeting that I should attack with Laurens De Vreese,” Westra wrote on his website. “During the race, Gruzdev first attacked, and then I passed him. Then De Vreese joined me. We were there with three riders, but unfortunately the Sky rider (Ben Swift, ed.) did not work. He was probably told not to do so over the radio. If we had worked together, we had maybe stayed away. If you have 15 or 20 seconds, you have a chance to win. I want to win and then you just ride but if someone is sitting on, you have no chance. We also did not want to give him a free ride to the finish line. "
Cramps take Sacha Modolo out of contention in Dubai queen stage
The most demanding stage of the third edition of the Dubai Tour did not scare Chun Kai Feng, who did not wait more than one kilometer to join the main breakaway of the race.
In the finale, Lampre-Merida worked in order to allow Sacha Modolo to approach the final hill in the best possible position, but the result was not as expected because Modolo faced cramps.
The first rider from Lampre-Merida to reach the finish was Rui Costa, 15th at 20 seconds.
"It was a very god opportunity for our team, since the final hill was suitable to Modolo's skill, but Sacha could not deliver the performance he expected,” Marco Marzano, Lampre-Merida's sports director, explained. “Despite the commitment and support of the team, the performance was lower than expected. It would have been an excellent opportunity to move up in the overall standings
“We're very satisfied with Feng who succeeded in joining the main breakaway of the stage. Yesterday he was so close to achieving this result, today he was fiercely determined and he hit the target.”
Ben Swift on the attack, Elia Viviani loses ground
A late attack from Ben Swift enlivened the queen stage at the Dubai Tour as Elia Viviani slipped from the race lead.
Swift jumped on a move in the closing stages and pulled out a slender gap alongside a pair of Astana riders, but the pace of the bunch meant the race came back together ahead of the decisive Hatta Dam climb.
Viviani headed into the day with a slender race lead courtesy of his sprint victory on stage two, but despite finding himself in the lead group late on, the pace and gradient proved too much for the Italian as the pack splintered.
Viviani sits 14th overall, 34 seconds back with another chance to sprint on Saturday.
Team Sky set about controlling the 172-kilometre stage with a full train of riders on the front of the peloton. In his stage race debut as a professional Gianni Moscon got through plenty of work at the head of the peloton before Andy Fenn took over.
On the approach to the finale new teams arrived at the front as the fight for position began. Attacks followed with 12km to go. Swift jumped on a promising move while Viviani hung tough in the lead group with Michal Golas, Christian Knees and Lars Petter Nordhaug for support.
Giant-Alpecin miss John Degenkolb in Dubai queen stage
Last year Giant-Alpecin won the stage with John Degenkolb but this time they had to settle for 19th with Koen De Kort
After the race coach Morten Bennekou explained: “Today’s 3rd stage was very tricky one with a difficult finish. Our strategy was to work for Roy [Curvers]. With 10km to go all our riders were in the peloton, but Bert [De Backer] and Sindre [Lunke] were not well positioned. During the last 5km Koen tried to support Roy but it was not successful.”
Novo Nordisk continye aggressive strategy in Dubai
Team Novo Nordisk’s David Lozano (ESP) starred in the day’s main break, which held on until the final eleven kilometers, on Friday’s stage 3 of Dubai Tour.
“Today our agenda was to attack and be active like we did the first day,” Lozano said, “and I was.” At 7km, a five-man breakaway, featuring Lozano with Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai), Chun Kai Feng (Lampre-Merida), Andy Tennant (WIGGINS) and Hayden McCormick (One Pro Cycling), pulled away, eventually establishing a maximum gap of 4:00.
“It was a really hard day for all of us,” Lozano added. “There was tough headwind and our power average was incredible. I managed to stay out in front until the last climb, but with 11km to go, the peloton pulled us back in. It was nice to test my legs, though, and feel that every day I’m getting better!”
“Our goal for stage 3,” said Team Novo Nordisk Senior Vice President of Athletics, Vassili Davidenko, “was to move Martijn Verschoor up in GC and have Javier Megias going for a top place at the stage. But it was not Martijn’s day. At the end of the second clim, he lost contact with the lead group, and from that point, all effort went to protect Javier and provide him best support in the last 5km.”
Puncture takes Cavendish out of GC contention, Eisel fractures collarbone
The 3rd stage of the Dubai Tour would not go the way of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka with a late mechanical putting an end to the hopes today.
With 10km to go the break were caught, and a few attacks then came from the peloton. Natnael Berhane, the Eritrean champion, got involved and put a few meters between himself and the peloton in following a few dangerous moves. It was also at this point where disaster struck the African Team as Mark Cavendish suffered from a mechanical which would put an end to his stage and GC hopes.
With Movistar setting a really high tempo on the way to Hatta Dam, all the late attackers were caught and there was also no way Cavendish would make it back to the front group as the race had split into pieces over the closing kilometers. Going into the final kilometer, when the road ramped skyward, it was Lobato who timed his effort best to take the win. Berhane was the top placed rider on the day, coming home 37 seconds down on Lobato in 28th place. Things would have been better for the Eritrean champ had he not dropped his chain with 120m to go while inside the top 10.
“It wasn’t the best stage for us today. We try to look after Cavendish but in the final he had a flat wheel at a bad time. I was trying to follow some moves in the small climbs and used some energy. When I came back to the group Cav was not there so I had to try for the final as well but I had no more legs for the final climb. I started the climb maybe in 8th position, but my chain dropped 120m from the line. I wasn’t going to win but a top 10 for sure without the dropped chain. Tomorrow we will go full gas for the stage win with Cav,” Berhane said.
“Not often I'm top15 over a decisive climb. So when I am, a puncture on the descent's a good way to bring me back down to earth,” Cavendish wrote on Twitter after the stage.
To make things worse, Bernhard Eisel broke his collarbone when he crashed in the feed zone.
Marcin Bialoblocki defends sprints jersey in Dubai
"It was a good day,” Marcin Bialoblocki said. “We made sure that no one dangerous in the Intermediate Sprint classification was breaking away. My team-mate Hayden McCormick was up the road. It was good for the One Pro Cycling team.
“As a new team, it's a good performance to have someone in the move every day. It shows how good we are and it helps for getting more invitations to big races in the future. We'll try to use a similar tactic tomorrow. To win our first jersey in a stage race would be a great achievement at the Dubai Tour."
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