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John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) claimed victory in Friday’s stage 3 at the Dubai Tour, out-sprinting Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the day’s final kicker, a 17-percent hill at the end of a 205-kilometer day.
The German seized the overall race lead from Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step), who is now four seconds back. Valverde, who finished two ticks behind Degenkolb to place second on Friday, is third overall at six seconds.
Valverde’s teammate and fellow Spaniard Juan Jose Lobato came in third on Friday.
“The team supported me the whole day,” Degenkolb said. “I think we raced pretty smart, and in the end we had still enough guys to put me in the right position in the last 500m. I was lucky that I could go around Luka Mezgec. I think I started my sprint with less than 200m to go, but if it’s steep like this, then 150m are like 300 on the flat.”
The 205-kilometer stage from Dubai to Hatta ended with a 3km climb, and the final 200 meters reached gradients of between 12 and 17 percent. The stage was the longest of the four-day race.
Five riders broke away from the peloton in the first part of the stage, but with 15km left there was just one rider, Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai), left out front. He was caught with about 5km left.
Degenkolb had three teammates with him at the finish, and they made their move in the final kilometer. The trio dropped Degenkolb off with 200 meters to go, at which point he powered up the steep ramp to victory.
“I think it was good that I started that early because that also brought me the seconds for the general classification now,” the winner said. “To be honest I was expecting before the line, like, now they’re going to catch me just before the line, but I just didn’t look back, I did a full out sprint, and I’m pretty excited about the watts I generated.
“It’s really a relief to win early in the season — It may be my earliest win ever — and it’s great.”
The race ends with Saturday’s 123km stage 4. “We’re going to do everything to defend the jersey and bring the jersey home,” Degenkolb said. “It’s going to be not easy, but I think we have still a good chance to get some bonus seconds and probably do a good result at the end of the race.”