The third annual Abu Dhabi Tour moves from its original position in October to the traditional Middle Eastern season in February. It's also its World Tour premier, having been a 2.HC Race in the past.
The four stage race draws the world's top sprinters who compete on the first two traditional desert sprint stages. The world's top climbers also make an appearance, contesting the tough climb up the Jebel Hefeet. The biggest draw for the fans, though, is the final stage around Abu Dhabi's Formula1 track.
Stage one saw a crash at the 1km to go banner, taking down race favorite Marcel Kittel (Quickstep-Floors) and holding up Caleb Ewan (Orica Scott) among other sprinters. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain Merida).
Stage two featured a shorter parcours, which played into the hands of the sprinter who dominated the Santos Tour Down Under, Caleb Ewan. In the closing meters, Ewan sat up to celebrate his victory, only to be beat on the line by Marcel Kittel.
The decisive stage three showed a phenomenal GC performance, with Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha Alpecin) putting in a huge attack with just under 7 km to go. The duo stayed away, despite a strong effort by Team Sunwb’s Tom Dumoulin and Trek Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema. In a two up sprint at the top of the Jebel Hefeet, Rui Costa took the victory and 10 second time on the line.
With the General Classification locked up, it was once again time for the sprinters to show their legs on the Yas Marina track. Under the lights on a rainy night in Abu Dhabi, the soaking wet peloton tentatively went around the F1 circuit. Australian Criterium champion Caleb Ewan took the final sprint ahead of Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel.
Rui Costa adds to his impressive palmares with the win in his new sponsor’s home country. With the conclusion of the tour, the Middle Eastern season comes to a close.
The World Tour will continue on Saturday in Italy for the Strade Bianche race. Top stage races Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico will start next Sunday and next Wednesday respectively.