Stage 3 of the Abu Tour Dhabi from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet lived up to its billing as the “queen stage” and kingmaker of this year’s race, as Rui Costa of the locally-based UAE Abu Dhabi team secured a win on the day, the Red Jersey of overall leader and the status of champion elect with one day to go.
Costa pipped Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha Alpecin) on the spectacular moonscape of Jebel Hafeet after that pair had surprised pre-race favourites Alberto Contador (Trek – Segafredo), Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain – Merida) and Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) by attacking six kilometres from the line. With just tomorrow’s grandstand finale on the Yas Marina Circuit still to ride, Mark Cavendish wears the Green Jersey as leader of the General Points Classification, Julian Alaphilippe heads the Young Classification and has the White Jersey, while Marco Canola faces a fight to keep his Intermediate Sprint Classification Black Jersey.
1 – Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi) 186km in 4h34’08”, average speed 40.710km/h
2 – Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha Alpecin) s.t.
3 – Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) at 10″
1 – Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi)
2 – Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha Alpecin) at 4″
3 – Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) at 16″
4 – Bauke Mollema (Trek – Segafredo) at 38″
5 – Rafal Majka (Bora – Hansgrohe) at 56″
The Red Jersey, sponsored by the Al Maryah Island (General individual classification by time) – Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi)
The Green Jersey, sponsored by Nation Towers (General individual classification by points) – Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data)
The White Jersey, sponsored by Abu Dhabi Sports Channel (Best Young Rider born after 1 January 1992) – Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)
The Black Jersey, sponsored by Etihad Airways (Intermediate Sprint Jersey Classification) – Marco Canola (Nippo – Vini Fantini)
At the press conference, the stage winner and race leader Rui Costa said: “It was very important for us to win or at least to have a good result here. It wasn’t easy with so many good riders and the stage was very complicated because there was a lot of wind and a couple of attempts by different teams to split the race. Movistar started the climb very fast, while I was forty positions behind and had to ride back up through the field, which cost me a lot of effort. When I attacked it was just to see how it went and who came with me but my legs responded well. Zakarin came with me, then at the finish I drew on some of the energy I had managed to save in the last couple of kilometres.
It was a strange moment when I attacked because I’d been behind and they’d started the climb so strongly. After the attack, I didn’t know whether or not to persist but in the end I decided to keep going. It was the right strategy.
I worked well with Zakarin, also because we knew that the guys behind were very strong. The cooperation between us was absolutely key.
It’s so important for me to win here, because of the sponsor. I already did well in Oman but it was more important here, in the UAE. The sponsors wanted us to bring a strong team and we came with good sprinters and good riders for this stage. We wanted to give them a present with a good performance, and I’m thrilled that we’ve done it.”