Tadej Pogačar extended his lead in the general classification on stage three of the UAE Tour after holding on to multiple attacks from Adam Yates, before flying around the British rider with about 400 metres to go to take it in the sprint.
Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was set up by his team until Yates’s Ineos Grenadiers squad came up with 6km to go and smashed the race to pieces.
Yates now moves into second place ahead of João Almeida (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) who tried to stay with the two climbing specialists, but lost a good chunk of time.
Pogačar extends his overall lead as the race heads back towards the flat lands tomorrow.
How it happened
The race started rather slowly with a heavy headwind facing the riders as they left the grounds of Strata Manufacturing before heading 166km to the climb of Jebel Hafeet.
It was just a two-man breakaway that went away, getting a maximum gap of around five minutes – those riders were Tony Gallopin (Ag2r-Citroën) who went away first before being joined by Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal).
The day was largely controlled by UAE Team Emirates for Tadej Pogačar and Deceuninck – Quick-Step, for João Almeida and Mattia Cattaneo, who are both involved in the overall fight for the Belgian team.
With 40km to go the race started getting pacy with several teams battling for the lead of the peloton, including Bora-Hansgrohe, BikeExchange, Lotto-Soudal and Movistar, seeing the time gap drop down to 3-22 very quickly.
With 18km to go it was the team of Chris Froome, Israel Start-Up Nation as well as Bahrain Victorious at the front, chipping yet another minute off the breakaway.
The final intermediate sprint came with the break making it through, taking three and two bonus seconds. The peloton came through as Almeida tried to take the final bonus second after missing out earlier, when he was pipped by Pogačar’s team-mate Fernando Gaviria in the first.
But Portuguese rider Almeida wasn’t able to break through and it was Michael Mørkøv who took the final second as they started to climb up the Jebel Hafeet.
Gallopin attacked De Gendt with 11km to go as they went through the gates onto the climb, but he just had a gap of 58 seconds over a charging peloton.
Pogačar’s squad sat on the front working hard for the 2020 Tour de France champion after his team had used the climb as their main location for a training camp. Gallopin was caught with 8km to go.
Chris Froome held on to the lead group until 6.6km as he still looks to be on the road to recovery and his target of a fifth Tour de France.
Ineos Grenadiers then moved up with 6km to go and completely ripped the race to bits, isolating Pogačar as Daniel Martínez worked for the British rider and defending champion, Adam Yates.
Martínez pulled over and it was Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) who attacked, seeing Almeida drop backwards. Only Pogačar and Yates could follow the first kick as Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo) bridged back.
Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) pulled Almeida and a handful of others back to the leaders until Kuss kicked again. Pogačar and Yates followed with Almeida leading the chase group with 4km, before the British rider attacked and dropped Kuss with Pogačar clinging to his wheel.
In was between Yates and Pogačar with 3.8km to go as Yates tried to kick again to drop the young Slovenian.
Yates kept on hammering the attacks but he just could not shift Pogačar with 2km to go on the first climbing day of the UAE Tour.
Meanwhile, Almeida continued to chase with Powless and Harm Van Houcke (Lotto-Soudal), who were holding the gap at 40 seconds.
Pogačar then hit over the top with 400 metres to go, taking Yates by surprise and managing to hold on with the tight bend at the end meaning Yates was not able to get by with 80 metres left.
UAE Tour stage three, Strata Manufacturing – Jebel Hafeet (166km)
1. Tadej Pogačar (SLO) UAE Team Emirates, in 3-58-35
2. Adam Yates (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
3. Sergio Higuita (COL) EF Education-Nippo, 48 seconds
4. Emanuel Buchmann (GER) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Harm Vanhoucke (BEL) Lotto-Soudal
6. João Almeida (POR) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, all at same time
7. Florian Stork (GER) Team DSM, at 54
8. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo, at same time
9. Chris Harper (AUS) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 1-00
10. Geoffrey Bouchard (FRA) Ag2r La Mondiale-Citroën, at 1-09.
General classification after stage three
1. Tadej Pogačar (SLO) UAE Team Emirates, in 7-58-30
2. Adam Yates (GBR) Ineos Grenadiers, at 43 seconds
3. João Almeida (POR) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 1-03
4. Chris Harper (AUS) Team Jumbo-Visma, at 1-43
5. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-45
6. Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (DEN) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-36
7. Damiano Caruso (ITA) Bahrain Victorious, at 2-38
8. Mattia Cattaneo (ITA) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 2-39
9. Rubén Fernández (ESP) Cofidis, at 3-32
10. Fausto Masnada (ITA) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, 4-47.