Tough day out for Mitchelton-SCOTT on Jebel Hafeet

Tue 26 Feb 2019

The first summit finish of the UAE Tour was too much for Mitchelton-SCOTT as Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay struggled to hold on to a select group of climbers on Jebel Hafeet.

American Brent Bookwalter was the first rider home for the team as the 35-year-old rolled over the line in 27th after starting the climb in support of Grmay.

Four Go Away

With 165kms of flat roads before the stage ramped up to the finish at Jebel Hafeet, the peloton were happy enough to let a breakaway of four riders move down the road and open up a maximum gap of four minutes 22 seconds.

By the time the race hit the halfway point the gap to the escapes had dropped to just over two minutes with the GC teams controlling the pace on the front. And the advantage for the break didn’t last much longer as 10km later the peloton reeled the four hopefuls back in and the race to the bottom of Jebel Hafeet began.

The Road Ramps Up

The wide highways meant that all the teams with GC ambitions were spread across the road until the fight for position began as the climb approached at 20km to go.

It was Team Jumbo-Visma, the team of race leader Primoz Roglic, who took up the pace making as the reduced peloton began to be strung out at the foot of the climb.

With 5km to the summit the pace proved to be too much for Grmay as the 27-year-old slipped off the back off the leading pack and out of contention for the stage.

World Champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) went onto win the stage in a sprint to the line against race leader Roglic.

Brent Bookwalter:
"The team plan was to help setup Tsgabu for the best climb possible. He looked good all day and said he was feeling good, but the pace was very high and this is a unique climb, being a massive road and a totally flat day leading into it."

"My role was to be there for Tsgabu as long as I could. I saw him in some difficulty and that was also at a moment that I could tell the pace was really being pushed and the group was fragmenting. I eased off when he came off the group hoping he could find his pace and settle back in, but then I noticed he must have really hit the wall."

"I radioed to him to settle in and we would ride our pace to the top but then he told me just to go. Unfortunately in the process of doing this I had lost contact with the small group I was in and then had to plow the headwind and try fighting back to them."

"Personally I felt ok on the climb but could tell I have not done an effort like that in a long time. Even the surges earlier in the race are taking their toll on me a little more since it's my first race and big intensity of the season and I felt those already adding up when on the final climb."

"I think tomorrow we can focus on doing a good result with Luca and then look to what opportunities present themselves in the coming stages."

UAE Tour – Stage 3 Results:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) 4:44:50
2. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) ST
3. David Gaudu (Groupama - FDJ) ST
27. Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +1:17

UAE Tour – General Classification after Stage 1:
1. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) 9:38:05
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) 0:14
3. David Gaudu (Groupama - FDJ) 0:39
27. Brent Bookwalter (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 1:55