Sixth in Fujairah, the Quick-Step Floors rider is the new recipient of the blue jersey, after the former leader got a 20-second penalty from the race jury.
Elia Viviani will head into Friday’s queen-stage of the Dubai Tour at the top of the general classification, with a four-second buffer over Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), the winner of stage 3, which Elia concluded in sixth place, after another nervous bunch finish, which witnessed a mad dash to the line from the peloton’s top sprinters.
The stage was no stroll in the park, as immediately after the feedzone, crosswinds wreaked havoc. Quick-Step Floors were one of the teams to take advantage of the conditions and split the peloton to pieces; among the riders dropped was also Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), due to a mechanical; the Dutchman, leader of the GC, eventually returned to the bunch after drafting behind the car, and for that reason he was handed a 20-second penalty.
When the wind changed direction again, things eased off, allowing the riders who initially had been distanced to come back. Tim Declercq then moved to the front and put in some monster pulls, lining out the peloton and bringing back to heel a late move of Tom Bohli (BMC), who all that could do was open a 15-second gap before being overhauled by the Belgian.
“The team did a perfect job once again. After the feedzone, we tried something in the crosswinds, splitting the field, but ten kilometers later it turned into a tailwind, so we decided to focus on the bunch sprint from that moment on. I accelerated early, with 200 meters to go, which probably was a mistake with the headwind we had, but I was worried that someone would come from behind. In the last 50 meters I lost speed and didn’t take any bonus seconds, which could have been important in the final outcome of the race.”
Friday, the peloton will travel to Hatta Dam, for a punchy finish which could reshuffle the general classification led by Elia Viviani. Even though he acknowledges that the small climb, which includes a 17% section, is not suited to sprinters, the Italian is confident he can put in a solid display: “I am happy with the work of my teammates, they are really great. I’m not happy with the result, but as I said, defeats motivate me a lot and I’ll soon have another opportunity to show that. Tomorrow a hard finish awaits and I will try to defend the lead. If I’ll be in a good position when the road kicks up, then there’s a chance I will do it.”
2014 Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra made use of his experience to assemble the Quick-Step Floors train with five kilometers to go, which managed to bring previous stage victor Elia Viviani in a good position as the run-in loomed at the horizon. The 29-year-old was the first to kick out in Fujairah, and despite missing out on the win, he looked at the bright side of things after this penultimate stage for the sprinters.