Hatta: The 2018 Dubai Tour will come down to the wire on Saturday after Bahrain-Merida’s Sonny Colbrelli threw the race wide open winning the 172km ‘Queen’s Stage’ between Skydive Dubai and Hatta, on Friday.
Following a semi-classic course through the desert areas of Sharjah and the Hajar Mountains of Ras Al Khaimah, the penultimate stage culminated at the top of the Hatta Dam with 27-year-old Italian Colbrelli clipping Astana Pro Team’s Magnus Cort Nielsen and Team Lotto NL-Jumbo rider Timo Roosen to take his 19th pro win of his career in a time of 3 hours, 40.50 seconds at an average speed of 46.732kph.
Team Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish who had created a major stir in the standings after winning the third stage in Fujairah on Thursday finished lower down in 20th position and all but blew away his chances for a second Dubai Tour crown. Thursday’s win for Cav — his 146th stage success — had seen the overall blue jersey move on and remain for one more day with Quick-Step Floors’ sixth-placed Elia Viviani, a mere two seconds ahead of Nielsen and four seconds offstage Four winner, Colbrelli.
“I really wanted to win today because the team has been working hard from day one. I launched the sprint from very far out and I couldn’t wait for this race to end. The last 50 metres looked to me like an infinity,” Colbrelli said.
“This victory means a lot for my team and is very important for my morale. Even without being favourites, we raced as a team like leaders,” he added.
Viviani also retained the Red jersey for general classification on points, four clear of Team Lotto NL-Jumbo’s Dylan Groenewegen (42pts) and Astana’s Cort Nielsen (40). The Italian leader promised he wouldn’t be losing sleep thinking about Saturday’s final sprint.
“The race isn’t over yet. Two seconds advantage over Magnus [Cort Nielsen] isn’t much considering how strong he is. But we have a strong team. Today’s goal was to defend the Blue Jersey and I am happy about that. I think I couldn’t have done more than this,” Viviani said.
“I just have to do my best sprint tomorrow to win the Dubai Tour and possibly another stage,” he mused.
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Earlier, a group of five — Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport), Sun Xialong (Mitchelton-Bikeexchange), Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling), Christopher Williams (Team Novo Nordisk) and Simone Bevilacqua (Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia) — led the breakaway and were joined by Brandon McNulty (Rally Cycling) and Kristijan Koren (Bahrain-Merida).
The front pack managed to increase the gap from 1.32 minutes to 6.47 minutes approaching the first Intermediate Sprint in Lahbab. However, by the time the second Intermediate took place past Maliha the lead had been cut down to 4.27 minutes.
By the time the front pack reached 15km of the finish it looked like Rally Cycling teen McNulty was in an ideal position to go all the way to the finish. The 19-year-old hung in till the final 40 metres leading up to the Hatta Dam when he was overtaken by a host of established stars led by Colbrelli.
Saturday will see the final stage over 132km of the old and new parts of Dubai with a start at 12.05pm from Skydive Dubai and a likely finish by 3pm at City Walk parallel to Al Wasl Road.