Tanel Kangert (Astana) won stage three of the Abu Dhabi Tour, all but sealing the overall classification in the process.
The Estonian broke clear with Nicholas Roche (Tinkoff) on the Jebel Hafeet climb that stage three finished atop, and the pair distanced the rest of the rapidly-reducing peloton.
Kangert then attacked with around 3km to go, just before the climb’s steepest section of 11%, and comfortably held onto win by 17 Seconds.
Next over the line was Eritrean Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data), who impressively managed to attack a strong looking chase group that still included Tour de France champions Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Kangert’s Astana teammate Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and gain enough of a gap to hold on to third.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was unsurprisingly dropped at the foot of the climb, and hands the overall lead of the race to Kangert.
Cavendish will have aimed to have saved as much energy as possible heading into tomorrow’s likely bunch sprint on the Yas Marina F1 circuit.
Despite being set up for a showdown on the final climb, there was also some action earlier in the stage when crosswinds affected the race.
Team Sky sought to capitalise, riding at the front and causing splits in the peloton, although all the big names managed to avoid being caught out.
Their work ensured the day’s break had no chance of succeeding, however, and Evgeny Shalunov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Marco Coledan (Trek-Segafredo) Michael O’Loughlin (Team Wiggins) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) were all reeled in with just over 30km left to ride.
Olympic champion Van Avermaet was not done attacking, however, and went off the front again just prior to the final climb at 14km from the finish, taking soon-to-be BMC Racing teammate Fran Ventoso (Movistar) with him.
The Belgian did manage to drop Ventoso, but was again caught by the peloton on the lower slopes of the Jebel Hafeet.
The peloton thinned out considerably when the riders started climbing, and had been reduced to less than a dozen riders by the time an attack from Carlos Verona (Orica-BikeExchange) had been neutralised.
By the time they reached the summit, the leaders were in groups of just ones and twos, with Kangert proving the strongest.
With stage four taking place on the pan flat Yas Marina circuit, and holding a substantial lead of 21 seconds ahead of second overall Roche, Kangert should wrap up the overall victory without any trouble.
Abu Dhabi Tour, stage three: Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet, 150km
1 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana in 3-31-31
2 Nicholas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff at 17secs
3 Mekseb Debesay (Eri) Dimension Data at 33secs
4 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at same time
5 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 50secs
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at same time
7 Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo at 52secs
8 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC at 1-19
9 Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 1-28
10 Jesper Hansen (Den) Tinkoff at same time
Overall classification after stage three
1 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana in 9-19-44
2 Nicholas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff at 21secs
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 43secs
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 1-00
5 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at same time
6 Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo at 1-02
7 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC at 1-29
8 Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 1-28
9 Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar at
10 Jesper Hansen (Den) Tinkoff both at same time