Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) took the third stage and the overall race lead of the Abu Dhabi Tour Saturday, with a late crash by Wout Poels (Sky) lending the 25-year-old Colombian a helping hand. After Chaves spent almost 5km solo at the front of the race, Poels caught him inside the final kilometer and then put in a strong attack, only to slide out while cornering through a hairpin less than 200 meters from the finish line. Chaves stayed upright and sailed past to take the win, and Fabio Aru (Astana) overtook Poels as well before the Sky rider remounted and crossed the line for third.
Although relatively short at 140km, stage 3 was a tough one for the Abu Dhabi Tour peloton, with blistering heat and a challenging finishing climb to overcome.
After setting out from Al Ain, Rafaa Chtioui (Skydive Dubai) and Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare) jumped almost immediately to form the day’s breakaway, though they were never allowed too much of a gap. Riding on flat roads for most of the afternoon, the break’s advantage maxed out at 2:37. Chtioui left Bazzana behind on the final climb to Jebel Hafeet, but both riders were ultimately reeled in on the lower slopes.
Riders were shelled out the back of the pack all the way up the climb before several big names started trading attacks. Alejandro Valverde tried his luck but could not get clear. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was able to open up a small advantage on a select group of GC hopefuls before being caught by Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick-Step), but Chaves powered past both of them with just over 5km to go.
Poels set out in pursuit and chased doggedly the rest of the way up the climb before finally catching Chaves with less than a kilometer to go to the finish. Poels then put in a dig that might have delivered the stage victory, but he went down rounding the final corner, allowing Chaves to ride past and secure the win and the race lead.
“It was a very hard climb, and even harder in the heat,” said Chaves. “The first part was hard, the final kilometers less so, but you needed to have the legs. The racing was hard, too. We are in the middle of the desert and the temperatures were unbelievable, so it was important to keep my body temperature down. The team was great. They worked hard for me all day, bringing me water and ice for my back and head. I poured 30 to 35 bottles of water on my body.
“I am really happy with this win. It was a hard climb, but I did not raise my hands in celebration because the rider in front of me crashed, and it would not have been correct to celebrate. I would like to send my commiserations to Wout Poels, and also say to the race organizers, ‘Congratulations, Abu Dhabi Tour.’ ”
The Abu Dhabi Tour concludes Sunday with a 110km stage 4 consisting of 20 laps on the 5.5km Yas Marina Autodrome circuit.