Stage 3 of the Tour Of Dubai took place over night and was a cracking stage! It was the first real Big stage in the UCI Asia Tour and one containing all the big guns of world cycling. With Rui Costa in his World Champions strip and all the major Tour de France GC contenders looking for early glory, the stage was set for a show down at the finish line.
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) would end victorious and won his second stage in a row in Dubai, timing his sprint to perfection to edge out Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in the race to Hatta.
Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) maintained his race lead and with one stage still remaining looks on course to seal the overall.
However the day belonged to Kittel, who came from no where to snatch the win, after a gutsy battle through the final climbs. All eyes had been on Peter Sagan, who was boxed in on the right. Kittel took full advantage of his main rivals misfortune and attacked down the right to win in fantastic fashion.
The win proved that Kittel can also win without his lead-out train, as the German was left with only Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg for company inside the final kilometres.
[quote_box_center]“It was really hard. I had enough power to pass the climbs but if it was one more kilometre then I would have been dropped. I knew the final and I knew my chances were 50-50 but I’m very happy to have made it,” the German said at the finish.[/quote_box_center]
Stage 3, with its two inclines towards the end of the race, was always going to provide a chance of disrupting the sprinters’ dominance but it was left to a six-man break of Evan Huffman (Astana), Willie Smit (Vini Fantini-Nippo), Ruslan Karimov (RTS-Santic Racing Team), Alexandr Pliuschin (Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team), Diogo Nunes (Banco BIC-Carmim) and João Pereira (Banco BIC-Carmim) to create the action early on.
As the break ran out of steam, the Moldovan rider Alexandr Pliuschin (Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team) made a solo attempt to claim a famous victory for his fledgling team. Hands over the bars, the 27-year-old pushed on, leading by 1:58 with 16 kilometres remaining. At just over a minute down on GC, his move forced BMC to use yet more energy but despite a headwind, and strength in numbers, Pliuschin’s two-minute buffer remained as the kilometre check ticked down to 14 remaining.
The Moldovan, still comfortable, even had time to wave to the television crews as they drew alongside him and with 12.5km to go he was still the virtual overall leader by 44 seconds.
But it was not to be. As the mountains approached and his speed dwindled, so did his lead. He was soon swallowed up by the peloton and the race came to life. Movistar was first to hit the front of the bunch as they turned the screw in a bid to distance the pure sprinters, with Adriano Malori briefly jumping clear.
Sagan’s Cannondale squad then played their first card, behind them sat Cummings and Phinney, with Sagan and Rui Costa also monitoring the situation.
On the descent of the climb Sagan personally took matters into his own hands with a number of gaps appearing in the peloton. In his trademark fashion, Sagan descended like a man possessed and seemed committed to the win.
Tony Martin then put in a shallow attack but it merely acted as a launch pad for Alejandro Valverde, who skipped clear with Sagan once again closing the gap. There was a brief drop in pace as the leaders came back together with 40 riders – including Cavendish, Kittel and Sagan – still in contention for the stage.
Rui Costa then showed his rainbow stripes with his first attack of the race. The Lampre rider’s acceleration was brought back with the remnants of the bunch altogether with 1,000 metres remaining.
The stage looked perfect for Sagan to pounce but too much work in a bid to drop the sprinters, coupled with poor positioning, saw him trail home in third, with Kittel once again raising his arms in victory.