How the race finished
Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) outmanouvred a flying Neve Bradbury (Canyon//Sram Racing) atop Jebel Hafeet to move into the race lead. Mavi Garcia (Liv Alula Jayco) was third across the line.
Full results are available below.
How it happened
The third stage of the UAE Tour was finally a day for the climbers, with the 128km long stage finishing atop Jebel Hafeet. With only a light wind blowing, the peloton started the day at a leisurely pace. Around 20km into the stage, a flurry of attacks came from the smaller teams, looking to establish a breakaway. Riders from Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo and Human Powered Health were all active.
The first attack to establish a gap came from Aude Biannic (Movistar), who quickly gained a lead of 20 seconds. The peloton initially seemed content to leave Biannic out there, but her move incited another flurry of attacks as riders attempted to bridge. All the activity only resulted in the peloton stringing out, and the gap to Biannic coming down. Two further riders briefly managed to escape the bunch, but the peloton picked up the pace, catching the pair and then also bringing Biannic back.
The next attack came from Marie Le Net ( FDJ Suez), with just over 100km to go. Once again, the dance of riders from the smaller teams unsuccessfully trying to break free and bridge began. Le Net extended her gap to 45 sec as the peloton relaxed, making it harder for riders to bridge individually.
The first intermediate sprint came at 90km to go, by which point Le Net had a gap of 1 min 40, and picked up the major bonus. Behind in the peloton, Daria Pikulik (Human Powered Health) surprised Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) for the remaining seconds.
Another flurry of unsuccessful attacks at 87 to go saw Le Net’s lead cut to under a minute. Linda Zanetti (Human Powered Health) set of in pursuit of Le Net, making the connection fairly quickly. As she joined Le Net, the pair had a 30 second gap on the peloton.
When it kicked off in the peloton again, a ground of twenty riders got a small gap, only to be reabsorbed – but the action meant that the leading two were caught. The attacks continued, with Movistar, Cofidis and Human Powered Health especially active. Lidl-Trek began to take a more active role patrolling at the front, making sure no one too dangerous got away – which was no surprise, given they had the favourite to win the stage.
At 75 km to go things finally calmed down, with teams taking it easy and stocking up on bottles from the cars. Idoia Eraso Lasa (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi) clipped off solo, and the peloton seemed happy to let the gap go out. Once again, Zanetti (Human Powered Health) attempted to bridge across, and once again the attacks in the peloton began. Movistar in particular seemed interested in getting a rider up the road.
A mass nature break put a temporary hold on the intermittent attacks, while up ahead Zanetti was about to reach Eraso. Gladys Verhulst-Wild (FDJ Suez) joined them, and finally, with only 60km to go, the breakaway for the day was established.
By 40 km to go, the peloton had let the time gap to the breakaway go out to over six minutes. With Wiebes wearing the leader’s jersey and Kopecky with an eye on the climb ahead, SD Worx-Protime took it up at the front of the peloton. In the next few kilometres a few crashes happened in the peloton, with a number of Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi riders involved, as well as Movistar’s GC hopeful, Claire Steels, who needed a bike change..
Led by Verhulst-Wild, the breakaway swept up all the bonus seconds at the second intermediate sprint at 14km to go, still holding a 3 minute 30 second advantage over the peloton. Another crash approaching the base of the climb put paid to Petra Stiasny’s hopes on the climb, as the peloton started with a 2 minute 30 second lead.
At 10km to go the break exploded. Eraso Lasa was dropped first, then Zanetti, while Verhulst pushed on. Behind, wearing the leader’s jersey, Wiebes did a massive lead out, bringing the gap to almost 1 minute and a half. When Wiebes pulled off, Canyon took over the pace setting, before Gaia Realini came to the front and lifted the pace for Lidl-Trek.
With 7.8km of climbing remaining, the gap was down to under a minute – but the peloton had shrunk to nine riders. Just a few hundred kilometres later only six riders remained. Realini kept making it hard on the front, but Kopecky, Mavi Garcia (Liv Jayco Alula), Marion Bunel (St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93) and Neve Bradbury (Canyon//Sram Racing) hung on, along with Realini’s teammate and last year’s winner, Elisa Longo-Borghini.
At 6.6km to go, Garcia took over the pace setting. Realini put in an attack at 5.9km to go, but it was immediately shut down by Bunel. Behind, Longo-Borghini was tailed off the back of the group. Garcia came back to the front to set the pace again, keeping Longo-Borghini out of touch with the group. The next to struggle with the pace was Bunel, who slowly slipped backwards, but continued at her own pace to up the climb. Garcia continued at the front, with Kopecky holding strong on her wheel, followed by Realini and Bradbury. Garcia raised the pace slighly on the final steep section at 3.3 km to go, but the group stayed intact.
At 2.9km to go Bradbury, who had been sitting quietly at the back, launched an attack. No one was able to respond immediately. Realini when backwards, leaving Garcia and Kopecky looking at each other to see who would chase. Eventually Garcia went after Bradbury with Kopecky on the wheel, but when she began loosing ground, Kopecky attacked to try to bridge, dropping Mavi.
With less than 2km to go, Kopecky was still 20 seconds behind Bradbury – but as the road flattened, she put the power down, closing the gap just inside the final kilometre. Bradbury forced Kopecky to the front, getting down into the drops in preparation for the final kick up to the line. When Kopecky launched Bradbury went with her, but Kopecky was able to open a gap and take the win on the line – moving her into the overall race lead.
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