Adam Yates of Great Britain produced a scintillating performance, bossing the steep climb of Jebel Hafeet to win the third stage of the UAE Tour 2020. Riding for Mitchelton-Scott, the 27-year-old Yates soloed up the 10km long hill. Reaching the summit he took an advantage of more than one minute over his rivals, the closest of which was hot favourite Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia, who had to settle for second place and best young rider position. Also Read - UAE Tour 2020: Caleb Ewan Doubles Up At Hatta Dam
It was when the final six kilometres remained, that Yates turned up the show breaking away with only Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) for company. As the finish line approached, Yates displayed a kind of acceleration never seen before. Since the introduction of the Jebel Hafeet climb in 2015, the maximum time gap between the first and second finish has remained 17 seconds. However, Yates, in a class of his own, crossed the line in such a dominating fashion that Pogacar emerged second after more than one minute. Also Read - Pascal Ackerman Powers to Stage 1 Win of UAE Tour 2020
“I attacked early because, this race being the first of the season for me, it was hard to know how everyone is going. I just wanted to test the legs. Maybe I attacked too early but in the end I felt good. One minute difference is a lot but we’ll have to do this climb again and maybe my legs will not be so good. I also heard there might be crosswinds tomorrow so I’m still far from the overall victory,” Yates said right after the win. Also Read - Chris Froome Returns to Professional Cycling at UAE Tour 2020
Stage 3 marked the first of the two key summit finishes in the race with Jebel Hafeet set to embrace the winner two days later. As the action picked up, in the breakaway of four riders were Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal), Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling), Umberto Marengo (Vini Zabu-KTM), Stijn Steels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) with 115 kms to go. They managed to hand a seven-minute advantage but it was reduced due to increased pressure of the peloton, who were seemingly affected with the crosswinds.
With 100 kms to go, the gap between the four escapees and the peloton stood at five minutes. There were a couple of crashes in the bunch, the first one including Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Carlos Rodgriguez (Ineos) among other riders but none was hurt. In their ‘home race’, team UAE Emirates set the tempo ahead of the peloton with temperature touching 35 degree.
As the race was seven and a half kms away from ending, pressure was mounted by CCC Team’s Jan Hirt set the pace early on for Ilnur Zarkin, before their teammate Victor de la Parte went clear. But what followed was a surreal attack from Yates, who despite being matched initially by Lutsenko and Gaudu, stormed away. With five kms remaining, Yates’ dominance had stretched to an extent that he spotted no one while constantly looking back.
“I just went solo to test the legs and see who’d come with me to take conclusions from there. I felt super and no one came with me,” said Yates at the post-match conference. “I went full gas at the front and it worked out well even though it was very hot for me today, around 37 degree for most of the race. It’s my first race of the year so I didn’t know how I’d feel and who’d be up against me, especially with the young guys coming up. I still feel young but I get older every year. Now I just have to stay on my toes to try and win the race overall.”
In Pogacar, Emirates had one of the big favourites for Tuesday’s stage and the overall title. The Slovenian, who had such an extraordinary debut professional campaign last year, came here on the back of two stage wins and the overall title at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. He kept counter-attacking, often throwing Lutsenko off-guard and had it not been for Yates’ marathon acceleration, Pogacar was the man to beat. That said, the 21-year-old was in awe of his teammate.
“I may be a little bit disappointed not to win, but I saw how good Adam [Yates] was,” Pogacar said. “I could have followed him for longer but for sure he would have won anyway because he was stronger. I could just have lost with a smaller gap. For sure I’ll try to attack him on the climb when we’ll come back here in two days but he might still be too strong for me.”