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"It was very interesting racing today, I presume the TV spectators have enjoyed it! There was everything: crosswind, sprinting, positioning before climbing… Our plan was to arrive fresh for the last climb," Kangert said.

Photo: Sirotti






22.10.2016 @ 23:09 Posted by Andy Pedersen

Unlike the two previous days, today was never going to be a day for the sprinters in the Abu Dhabi Tour. Stage 3 ended with a climb up Jebel Hafeet and suited the climbers. Estonian Tanel Kangert (Astana) took the leadership of Astana and received help from the whole team including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) to take the win.


The Estonian got away from Irishman Stephen Roche (Team Sky) with 3km to go. Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data) rounded off the podium by taking third. Kangert is new man in the red leader’s jersey.  


We have gathered some of the reactions here.


Kangert: The red jersey is to share with my team

Kangert won solo the "Queen Stage" of this Abu Dhabi Tour and is now in first place of the general classification when there is only one last stage on the run.


Speaking seconds after the stage finish, the winner Tenel Kangert said:


"It was very interesting racing today, I presume the TV spectators have enjoyed it! There was everything: crosswind, sprinting, positioning before climbing… Our plan was to arrive fresh for the last climb. We knew before the start we had two climbers here, Vincenzo and myself. If I had a good day, I could be also there. Vincenzo told me yesterday that I’d have a chance but I also needed to have the legs to do that. Nicolas Roche was a bit more tired than I was. I was afraid of the headwind in the finale but luckily, the wind direction changed and there was nothing to stop me."


"I turned around and he was always behind me,” says Tanel Kangert. “I pushed as I could and, at one point, it was gone. I have to thank all my teammates, because they really helped me to win. The leader's jersey is to share with them.”


In the press conference, the winner and Red Jersey Tanel Kangert said:


"I have to thank my team for the freedom they gave me for this race. We had two cards to play. It sounds like a cliché to thank the team but it’s true, we rode from the beginning and I reached the climb fresh. Vincenzo Nibali did a good job behind me. We’ve had four good years together. He’s a captain who gives a lot of confidence to his team-mates. I’ve never raced that late in the year. I’ve never had so many kilometres in my legs in the same season. I can’t wait to go home but I’ll go home happy because I came with the ambition of making the top 10, maybe the top 5 if I was being lucky, so to win here is beyond expectations.”


SD Alexandr Shefer found the performance by the team today great and is confirmed in his confidence regarding the team.


"I felt that we had a great race,” commented sport director Alexandr Shefer. “And also the Vincenzo Nibali’s sixth place is the confirmation that we ran just fine."


Roche: It is important for me to finish off strong with Team Sky

Nicolas Roche produced a strong performance to come home second on the queen stage at the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Irish national champion was well positioned heading onto the Jebel Hafeet summit finish and jumped clear of the pack alongside Tanel Kangert (Astana).


The duo opened out a gap before Kangert pushed clear, but Roche dug deep to cross the line in second, 17 seconds back, giving him an impressive general classification foothold heading into Sundays finale. Team Sky were active on the run into the final climb, arriving at the fore to make the race difficult and helping to split the bunch apart in the cross-winds.


“Yesterday I said ‘I don’t know how good or how bad I am but I told the team I was going to commit and not sit up and I didn’t sit up,” Roche said with pride according to Cyclingnews.


“I thought I was going to lack that kind of acceleration that maybe Ulissi or the other climbers would have had. So, I thought that if I went early as well it would be good because I knew the second part was going to be harder. I’m quite happy it worked out quite well. Obviously it’s not a win but I said to Tanel this morning that I thought that he looked like he was fit enough to win. I’m happy for him. He’s a good friend of mine and we were all together in teams like in AG2R a couple of years ago. Fair play to him to get that win.”


Going deep one last time for Team Sky


“There were a few times this year that I went deep but this is probably up with the high ones, it’s definitely one of the days when I went deep, deep, deep this year.” Roche admitted, clearly still trying to recover from his effort.


“I think Tour of Britain was also one where I just completely emptied the tank, and obviously in the team time trial World Championships. I thought I was going to faint when I crossed the line that time but cycling is about suffering, we actually do it quite a lot.”


“It’s important to me finish on a high with Team Sky. I love my job, I’m passionate about my job and I wanted to finish on a good note and this is why when the team had asked me I was interested to go all the way until the end of the season, I thought yeah, why not? I didn’t have many opportunities this year, I’ve been ill a few times, and this is one of the chances where I could kind of give it a go and finish on a good note.”


Dimension Data SD Heynderickx praises Mekseb Debesay to the skies

Four riders broke away from the peloton in the early stages of the race and while the African Team were not planning on defending the jersey, the boys still controlled the gap along with Astana and Tinkoff. From about 50km out, Team Sky came to the fore as well and tried to make use of a slight crosswind to split the peloton. The wind wasn’t quite strong enough to make a definitive difference but the increase in pace did see some riders lose contact and the break being caught with still 28km to go.


A few fresh attacks kept the pace high but in the end, the peloton arrived at the foot of the Jebel Hafeet all together. As Mark Cavendish found himself being distanced on the lower slopes, Mekseb Debesay was given free reign to do his own ride on the climb. Debesay, who has spent the last two stages pacing on the front of the peloton for Cavendish, took his opportunity with both hands and climbed like a superstar.


Mekseb Debesay said after the stage:


“It was a nice race today and I feel quite happy right now. It was the first time I have done a good result at such a big race and also with such big names here. So I am really happy with how everything went today.”


After the stage, the Green Jersey, Mark Cavendish, said: "I was very happy to be in the Abu Dhabi Sports Council red jersey today. It was very nice to wear it. As a team, we had another good ride. Meksem Debesay has been riding at the front these last two days and he was able to compete with the best climbers uphill today. I’m happy to keep the green jersey and I hope to retain it tomorrow as well.”

Sport Director JP Heynderickx is overall very satisfied with the performance of his team today:


“Today was the decisive stage and everybody was expecting a hard final. It was a hard final but Mekseb mentioned yesterday that he will have a go on the climb and he did. He surprised just about everybody, even dropping some of the really big GC names, and he did a very good climb. We also kept the green jersey in the team so that is good going into tomorrow’s final stage.”


Ulissi strives for preserving podium spot

It was climbers' time in the 3rd stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour and Diego Ulissi succeeded in being protagonist among the pure climbers, obtaining the 4th place behind the winner Kangert, Roche (2nd), Debesay (3rd) and preceeding the starts of the great tours Contador (5th) and Nibali (6th).


Ulissi, who's 3rd in the general classification, at 43" to Kangert and 22" to Roche, commented:


"I'm satisfied with the 4th place, especially because I competed at the same level of pure climbers. When we approached the final ascent, I tried to select the group in order to reduce the number of the members, then I set a regular pace which allowed me to be close to obtaining the third place. I'm happy I'm on the virtual podium of the general classification, I'll be very satisfied if I 'd manage to confirm it also at the end of the final stage".


Contador: I lacked a bit of tempo to the guys at the front

Despite coming into the race unsure of how his form would be, Alberto Contador still managed to race to an impressive fifth place atop the final mountain climb to the line. Jesper Hansen also put in a strong performance, finishing just a few places behind in 10th.


Alberto told after the stage: “I enjoyed the race today, and I’ve enjoyed these days in this country. The feeling in the legs wasn’t too bad, but I think I lacked a bit of high tempo to the guys in front, but ok, I’m happy, was at the front and it was a good day for the team. Tomorrow is the last day then after this race I can enjoy the off season.”


Once the climb had started, the front group soon thinned down and a selection was made with Alberto in a chase group of four behind three individuals. Alberto finished strongly after which Jesper came over the line just over half a minute behind Alberto’s group.


Sport Director Tristan Hoffman added: “The guys did a good race today and Alberto and Jesper rode a strong climb. One moment there was some crosswind and they were at the front, with only Juraj being caught out when getting bidons. But all the other guys were in the front looking after Alberto and Jesper.”


Young Bernard surprised by his own abilities to stay with the stars

Saturday's stage three presented the only climb of the four-day Abu Dhabi Tour, a grueling 10.8-kilometer ascent to the finish, and Julien Bernard demonstrated his prowess for uphills with a stellar seventh place, finishing two seconds behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).


The White Jersey, Julien Bernard, said: "I usually manage to maintain a good level of fitness until the very end of the season, with not putting on weight or losing motivation, so the team decided to send me here, firstly to help Giacomo [Nizzolo] in the sprints, secondly to play my own cards on this climb. That’s what we did. I stayed under pressure till the Abu Dhabi Tour so I’m delighted to get the white jersey here today".


"I had good legs, and I tried to stay with Alberto and see what happened, and it worked out well for me," explained Bernard. "I stayed with Contador and Nibali until the final kilometer when they made another effort. To finish right behind them is incredible; I am happy with my result, and I have to say a big thanks to the team who believed in me and looked after me all day."


Bernard, 24, captured the white young rider's jersey for his effort, a first for the young French rider in his first year at the WorldTour level. Beranrd also sits in 6th place in the overall classification and should be able to clinch the jersey and top 10 GC tomorrow as the sprinters take center stage again.


"I did not think about the young rider jersey in the race, but at the finish I realized that the riders around me, like Alberto and Nibali, were older and not in the competition… So it was a nice bonus," smiled Bernard.


"Tomorrow is flat, and I have a good chance to keep it. Of course, we will try again to win for Giacomo. It is already a good race for the team, and we will try and end it the best way possible. For sure I am very happy, and if all goes well tomorrow, it's the first jersey I will win as a professional."


Powerful actions by Van Avermaet ended up by giving no leading result

Stage 3 of the Abu Dhabi Tour saw Greg Van Avermaet race aggressively to make two breakaways, and Ben Hermans test his climbing legs to finish in eighth place on the summit finish of Jebel Hafeet.


With 19km to go Greg Van Avermaet broke clear with two Movistar Team riders (Lobato and Ventoso) to maintain a small lead just in front of the peloton, before Van Avermaet went solo as he reached the base of the climb. The reduced peloton caught Van Avermaet 10km before the finish line, following which multiple attacks played out. Hermans was in a group of ten or so riders which battled it out on the climb.

Hermans finished in eighth place, 1’19” behind stage winner Tanel Kangert (Astana Pro Team) and sits in seventh place on the General Classification.


Ben Hermans said on the finish line:


“It was hard, as hard as you want. If you go easy then it’s not so hard as it wasn’t as steep as it looked. It was also a wide road so it was not that difficult but you just needed the legs. I had some legs but they weren’t good enough to do top three and that was the goal today to do a top three or try to win. But I didn’t have the legs and at 5km to go I had to drop from the group and I just paced myself to a top ten finish. I didn’t suffer too much in the echelons because I always had two or three teammates with me in the front. Jempy moved me up every time someone wanted to make an echelon so I was always in the front and then it’s not that difficult.”


Greg Van Avermaet said the following after the stage:


“There were some attacks in the opening kilometers so I just went and made the breakaway a little bit and once you are there you just want to go for it. I was hoping that the peloton would let me go a little bit and I could come to the climb with a bit of a gap and maybe make it. But they caught be back directly with the echelons so it was hard but we had some fun. When I jumped clear with Lobato and Ventoso it was a bit more of fun I think. It’s hard to do something there because you could take 30 seconds but then you go full gas at the beginning of the climb, so it was more about having some fun on the bike.”


Giant-Alpecin supported good-feeling Tusveld on the day

Martijn Tusveld put in a strong final climb on the third stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour to race to ninth place on the day, moving up to eighth on GC ahead of tomorrow’s final stage. After battling crosswinds which split the peloton during the stage, the riders then had a long climb to the line which broke the GC up for the first time in the race.


Coach Mattias Reck told after the finish: “We had a clear goal to support Martijn for the final climb today as he was feeling good, wanted to give it a go and was our best opportunity for the stage. The team did a good job on what was quite a tough day with crosswinds and echelons.”


“Martijn finished it off with a very solid effort on a climb like this and came away with a good result.”


Keukeleire will do everything to keep the black jersey

Belgian Jens Keukeleire retains his lead in the intermediate sprint classification after stage three of the Abu Dhabi Tour today after ORICA-BikeExchange teammate Carlos Verona split the race with a gutsy attack on the races only climb.


The Black Jersey, Jens Keukeleire, said: "I’m happy with one more day in the black jersey. But after two stages in the breakaway, I took an easy day today. I didn’t really want to go away again today. I had a look at who was making a move and it was ok for me to keep the black jersey.”


Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was pleased with the team’s performance on the races queen stage.


“Our main objective for today was to get Carlos (Verona) in a good position for the final climb and we did that very well,” said Lapage. “We had nothing to lose and Carlos attacked very strongly, but perhaps a little bit too early.”


“It is a long and challenging climb with a headwind, but the important thing is that we gave it a try and we went on the attack, this is a great experience for the younger guys and it will bode well for the future. The guys rode very well and I’m impressed at how motivated they are this late in the season, especially after such a long year of racing.”


“Jens (Keukeleire) still leads the intermediate points classification and we will see tomorrow how that plays out on the last stage, but for sure we will try to defend the jersey and see what opportunities arrive for the finale.”



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