Bauhaus was well supported by his Sunweb team through the final kilometres, and found himself in the perfect position close to stage two winner Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) with 200m to go.
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The young German sprinter came alongside his Italian rival as Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) all lunged towards the line.
However no one had seen Marcel Kittel, who came from a long way back and somehow found a gap on the left-hand side of the road to come through in the final 50m.
The fast-accelerating Kittel threw his bike towards the line, but was beaten by Bauhaus by less than the width of a tyre as the 23-year-old Sunweb sprinter took just the second WorldTour win of his career.
However fourth place for Viviani was enough to see him hold on the leader’s red jersey going into Saturday’s time trial.
How it happened
The third stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour featured another flat day of racing with a bunch sprint expected, with five riders escaping early in the stage.
In the move were Marco Maronese (Bardiani CSF), Sergey Firsanov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac) and Sam Brand (Novo Nordisk), who enjoyed a maximum advantage of a little under three minutes.
As had been the case in previous days the peloton enjoyed a relaxed start to the day, before beginning to reel the break in with around 70km remaining.
The breakaway seemed in little mood to put up much resistance, and although Pierre Rolland launched a futile solo move with the peloton in sight, the catch was made with more than 50km still remaining.
After the crosswinds split the race to pieces on stage two, there were attempts by both Bardiani CSF and EF Education-First Drapac to do the same again. However although there were a few riders caught out at the back of the pack, neither moves were able to cause too much damage.
From there the pace was controlled by a combination of the sprinters’ teams as the peloton rolled towards the bunch sprint at Big Flag.
Movistar were trying to set up José Joaquin Rojas for the sprint, but their lead-out effort was hijacked by Quick-Step Floors who, just as they did on stage two, moved to the front as the race went under the flamme rouge.
Viviani was once again in the perfect position, but Bauhaus was able to come out of his wheel to throw his bike across the line as Kittel somehow found a route down the left-hand side of the road, coming fast but not fast enough to deny Bauhaus.
The Abu Dhabi Tour continues on Saturday with a flat 12.6km time trial starting and finishing on Al Maryah Island, and will conclude on Sunday with a 199km stage with a summit finish at Jebel Hafeet.
Abu Dhabi Tour, stage three: Nation Towers to Big Flag, 133km
1. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb, in 3-02-55
2. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
3. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
5. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
6. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
7. Rudy Barbier (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
9. Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, in 11-06-36
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, at 3 secs
3. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb, at same time
4. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5 secs
5. Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 7 secs
6. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin, at same time
7. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 9 secs
8. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 10 secs
9. Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
10. Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF, at same time