UAE Tour: Alejandro Valverde records first win in rainbow jersey atop Jebel Hafeet
Seemingly ageless world champion Alejandro Valverde collects second consecutive summit victory on Jebel Hafeet, while runner-up Primož Roglič maintains race lead.
Reigning world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) bided his time and struck at the precise moment to bridge to the three-man attack in the closing 2.5 kilometres toward the summit finish atop Jebel Hafeet on Stage 3 of the inaugural UAE Tour, which combines the best of the now-defunct Abu Dhabi Tour and Dubai Tour.
After completing the majority of the 179km route from Al Ain to the top of the 10.8km climb, the 38-year-old Spaniard made it look effortless as he joined the trio before overtaking the group, which included German Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), and race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), in the final 300 metres.
“That's why I knew Roglič's initial acceleratino was a bit too early,” continued the world champion, who captured the overall title at the Abu Dhabi Tour atop Jebel Hafeet on the fifth and final stage last year. “You had to be really cautious, remain inside the group and jump closer to the finish, not earlier than the spot where I went for it last year.”
Irish veteran Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates), who finished fifth 12 seconds back, twice attacked Roglič after sensing trouble in the Slovenian’s stroke before ultimately conceding to the leaders once Valverde bridged across.
“Jumbo-Visma set a really high tempo,” explained Martin after the race. “I saw Primož when he went. He was a little bit on the limit and that’s why I attacked. He was able to come with me. I saw he was really suffering, so I accelerated again. He still had the legs to accelerate after me and that’s where I got dropped.”
Roglič finished second to maintain ownership of the red leader’s jersey with a 14-second lead over Valverde with four stages remaining as the race moves to Dubai.