Dubai Tour / st. 3 (+ Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana)
Spaniard from Movistar Team bounce back after last year's misfortune, claims an astonishing win in Hatta's uphill finish to claim the Blues' second success of the 2016 season. Juanjo now 2nd overall; Gorka Izagirre 7th in the stage
A bitter third place last year behind team-mate Alejandro Valverde and John Degenkolb, following a busy, productive winter and after not finding the good luck he needed to repeat success Down Under, Juanjo Lobato was finally able to dedicate a win to his 3-month-old son José on Friday, raising his arms victorious for the first time in 2016 atop the Hatta Dam on stage three of the Dubai Tour (172km). The Trebujena-born rider comfortably beat Giacomo Nizzolo (TFS) and Silvan Dillier (BMC) to claim his 12th success in the pro scene, the Movistar Team's second in 2016 and the first for Spanish cycling this season.
The Movistar Team saved all energy for the end into a stage controlled by Sky from start to finish. The riders directed by Chente García Acosta started going after the moves on the slopes prior to the finish, 12km from the line. Jasha Sütterlin and Marc Soler covered the moves at the front and kept the peloton together, as Oliveira, Castroviejo and Dowsett set up a brilliant leadout for the Andalusian, who started off the climb into the first ten of the bunch and always had Gorka Izagirre behind as pressure relief and second chance.
Into the 200m decisive climb, Lobato was simply superior to his rivals, with Gorka in a fine seventh place that puts the duo in 2nd and 5th overall; Nizzolo is the new leader with only 2" over Juanjo. The final stage, 137km aorund skyscrapers in Dubai, will offer two intermediate sprints (3-2-1) and an additional 10-6-4 bonus at the finish, all of which could turn things around on the GC.
Juanjo Lobato: "This victory makes me immensely excited and happy – I owe everything to my team-mates for their support. We knew we had to stay calm until the downhill after the last climb and give everything afterwards. They all were phenomenal in the finale, just like throughout the race. I knew the climb from last year's finish and it was one that really liked and suited me. I learnt there that being in a good position into that last corner right was crucial; last year I couldn't get things done right, but this time was the good one.
"I've worked really hard during the winter and this is a reward for that sacrifice, a proof that my condition is perfect at the moment and an extra boost of morale for the spring. I want to do well in the classics – it's been long spoken about Sanremo and me; the team likes the race, I personally love it and I want to keep that form coming. I put too much pressure on myself last season and couldn't be up there – let's hope we make it in 2016. I also think about those other classics: Gent-Wevelgem, De Ronde… I won't focus entirely on them, to avoid that pressure, but I'd still like to give them a try.
"For the time being, I'm already very happy to get my first win of the season here. Tomorrow? Let's hope I still stand a chance to win overall; I'm happy with today's success, but last year I took more risks into that flat finish and even got a 3rd place. You never know; it's still at my reach.
"This victory is a tribute to my son, José, born three months ago, and Adriano Malori. I hope he can return to Italy soon and recover perfectly well. Everyone at this team thinks of him everyday."
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana: No GC changes before Xorret de Catí; Ion Izagirre 12th in Alzira
Happiness in Dubai was followed by tranquility at Alzira's finish, as Dylan Groenewegen (TLJ) took the sprint win on stage three of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana while the Movistar Team stayed always focused and unscathed, with Arcas, Ventoso and Erviti taking care of the three main GC guys for the group directed by Jaimerena and Laguía: Jesús Herrada, Javi Moreno and Ion Izagirre.
Ion came home in 12th as best of the Blues in a day with no changes overall -the three Movistars remain in 4th, 6th and 8th-, prelude of tomorrow's decisive stage four. The steep Xorret de Catí (Cat-1), preceeded by Canalí (Cat-2) and followed by a short, tortuous descent, will complete a 141km journey starting at Orihuela.