The Queen stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour was taken out by Tanel Kangert (Astana) as he climbed to the stage win and into the overall race lead. Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) was 2nd on the stage and Eritrean Mekseb Debesay put in a stellar ride to finish 3rd for our African Team.
Starting in Al Ain, it was a pan flat 140km run-in to the foot of the 10km Jebel Hafeet climb for the 3rd and Queen stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour. After yesterday’s stage win, Mark Cavendish took to the start in the overall race leaders red jersey but it was never going to be a stage for our sprint heavy team for that matter. Cavendish would relinquish the red jersey by the stage end but kept the green points jersey going into tomorrow’s final stage.
Four riders broke away from the peloton in the early stages of the race and while our African Team were not planning on defending the jersey, our 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.
Carlos Verona (Orica-BikeExchange) was the first to attack on the climb but it was the move at 6km to go by Kangert and Roche that counted. The duo quickly got a 15 second gap on the main group of chasers which was now down to just 20 riders, Debesay included.
After Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff) failed to jump across the gap, he proceeded to drive the chase group for teammate Alberto Contador. When Hansen swung off at 3km to go, Debesay attacked the chasers and nobody could respond. Up the road, Roche would getting dropped as Kangert pushed on to win the stage. Debesay had Roche in his sights but just couldn’t reel him in before the summit, nevertheless, it was a fantastic 3rd place finish for our Eritrean.
Mekseb Debesay – Rider
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.
JP Heynderickx – Sport Director
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.