Keukeleire retains the black jersey as Verona goes on the attackSat 22 Oct 2016
Belgian Jens Keukeleire retains his lead in the intermediate sprint classification after stage three of the Abu Dhabi Tour today after ORICA-BikeExchange teammate Carlos Verona split the race with a gutsy attack on the races only climb.
23-year-old Spaniard Verona gained a 30second gap as the selection formed with ten kilometres remaining on the climb up to the finish in Jabel Hafeet.
As the gradient steepened Verona fought valiantly despite losing contact with eventual stage winner Tanel Kangert (Astana).
Estonian Kangert also moved into the race lead ahead of tomorrow’s final stage with Keukeleire holding onto the lead of the intermediate sprint classification.
Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was pleased with the team’s performance on the races queen stage.
“Our main objective for today was to get Carlos (Verona) in a good position for the final climb and we did that very well,” said Lapage. “We had nothing to lose and Carlos attacked very strongly, but perhaps a little bit too early.”
“It is a long and challenging climb with a headwind, but the important thing is that we gave it a try and we went on the attack, this is a great experience for the younger guys and it will bode well for the future.
“The guys rode very well and I’m impressed at how motivated they are this late in the season, especially after such a long year of racing.
“Jens (Keukeleire) still leads the intermediate points classification and we will see tomorrow how that plays out on the last stage, but for sure we will try to defend the jersey and see what opportunities arrive for the finale.”
How it happened:
The penultimate stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour got underway in hot and windy conditions with crosswinds playing a part from the off.
Four riders including Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) slipped away early on and developed a four-minute lead over the peloton after 40kilometres of racing.
The winds intensified after the halfway point of the 150kilometre stage forcing echelons to form within the bunch, the field subsequently split into three groups with Team-Sky driving the pace of the first chasing group.
With 40kilometres remaining the four leaders had less than a minute on the first group of around 40 riders and 30kilometres to go until the races only climb up to the finish in Jebel Hafeet.
Ten kilometres later and the first group had caught the breakaway quartet as ORICA-BikeExchange moved up to the front approaching the intermediate sprint with 20kilometres to go.
Verona jumped clear at the start of the Jebel Hafeet climb and immediately developed a 30second lead with the red jersey of Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data) a further one-minute 35seconds behind.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) led the chase behind Verona as the selection well and truly formed with seven kilometres left to race and gradients reaching upwards of 11%.
Verona was caught by Kangert and Nicolas Roche (Team-Sky) with five kilometres remaining as the chasing group also bridged across.
Kangert and Roche pushed on as more splits formed behind them with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) going on the attack with three kilometres to go and only 20seconds behind the leading duo.
The front of the race changed shape yet again as Kangert dropped Roche inside the final two kilometres and held on for the stage win with Verona fighting on and crossing the line just outside the top twenty.
The final stage takes place tomorrow and is another flat day for the sprinters, covering 143kilometres on the Yas Marina circuit.
Abu Dhabi Tour stage three results:
1. Tanel Kangert (Astana) 03:31:31
2. Nicholas Roche (Team-Sky) 00:00:17
3. Mekseb Debesay (Dimension-Data) 00:00:33
19. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:02:55
General classification after stage three:
1. Tanel Kangert (Astana) 09:19:44
2. Nicholas Roche (Team-Sky) 00:00:21
3. Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) 00:00:43
15. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:02:53