Alejandro Valverde proved yet again that age is but a number as the veteran Spaniard won Stage 3 at the UAE Tour on Tuesday – the second year in succession the 38-year-old was crowned king of Jebel Hafeet.
Valverde won the first serious climb ahead of Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and David Gaudu (Groupama- FDJ).
Here are the Stage 3 talking points.
VALVERDE GETTING BETTER WITH AGE
Father time continues to turn back the clock and, if anything, is seemingly getting better with age as he claimed a second successive victory on Jebel Hafeet.
It’s been quite a 12 months for the mercurial Movistar man, who proved he was back to his best in 2018. It all started with the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana triumph in January before Jebel Hafeet and overall Abu Dhabi Tour glory was achieved a month later.
The evergreen 38-year-old then stepped on the gas, winning at the Volta a Catalunya and La Route d’Occitanie before crowning his glorious year with a maiden World Championship road race triumph in October – ending a 15-year wait for the coveted rainbow jersey, having previously finished on the podium five times.
Victory on Stage 3 was the veteran Spaniard’s first since being crowned world road race champion in September, Valverde using all his experience and cunning to stalk and then pass UAE Team Emirates’ Dan Martin before closing the gap to the top three riders and launching a final attack in the last 200 metres, holding off the attentions of overall leader Primoz Roglic and David Gaudu.
Second overall at Valenciana last week and a second Jebel Hafeet triumph which catapulted him into the overall reckoning on the inaugural UAE Tour (he is second, 14 seconds adrift of red jersey leader Roglic), Valverde is proving once again that he is far from finished.
CLIMBING GREATS LOSE FOOTING AGAIN
A Jebel Hafeet victory continues to allude two of cycling’s finest climbers. Tom Dumoulin finished 13th on Stage 3 of the UAE Tour, 44 seconds adrift of winner Valverde, while Vincenzo Nibali was 25th, one minute and 17 seconds adrift.
Both men are known for their all-round prowess but are especially adept climbers – Nibali is a two-time Giro d’Italia champion and has also won the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. Dutchman Dumoulin claimed Giro glory in 2017. Both men have come close to being the cream of the crop atop Jebel Hafeet in the past, yet have somehow conspired to fail where Esteban Chaves, Tanel Kangert, Rui Costa and Valverde (twice) have triumphed.
Nibali was ninth at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour in 2015 and has subsequently finished sixth in 2016. Dumoulin, meanwhile, was a distant 41st in the inaugural edition before fading on the grueling final ascent in 2017, finishing just 10 seconds behind winner Rui Costa.
ANOTHER GOOD DAY FOR UAE
Speaking of Costa, the 2017 Jebel Hafeet and overall Abu Dhabi Tour champion, contributed to another fine day for home team UAE Team Emirates following Fernando Gaviria’s Stage 2 victory on Monday.
Tour de France 2018 stage winner Martin was among the leading group on the final ascent of Jebel Hafeet but he wasn’t able to quite push on and challenge the lead gang of Roglic, Gaudu and Emanuel Buchmann, before he was then caught and surpassed by a fresh-looking Valverde in the final few kilometres who then went on to claim victory.
Martin did come home fifth to put himself in the frame for overall GC victory – he sits sixth, 54 seconds off the lead of Roglic. Costa secured a top 20 finish while Diego Ulissi, who made the initial break at the foot of Jebel Hafeet, stayed the course to come home 53 seconds behind Valverde in 14th place.
The Italian is 20th overall and may also harbor ambitions of GC glory.
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