Alaphilippe seizes best young rider jersey in Abu Dhabi
The Frenchman showed grit and determination on the queen-stage of the race and moved into the top 10 overall with one day to go.
It what is just his second race of the season, following the Dubai Tour, Julian Alaphilippe climbed with the best on the tough stage which took the peloton to Jebel Hafeet (10.8 kilometers, 6.6% average gradient) and even managed to drop multiple Grand Tour winners Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) en route to a remarkable top 5 finish.
The race was a quiet one until the peloton hit the bottom of the day's only ascent, when Movistar took the front, picking up the pace and stretching out the bunch, who soon was spread out all over the road. Attacks then came, Quintana, Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) and Manuel Senni (BMC) being among those who tested the waters, but the elite group reacted each time. It was only when Rui Costa (UAE-Emirates) and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) went that the pack didn't respond, allowing the two to carve out a 30-second gap.
As the duo continued to build what proved to be a decisive advantage, the reduced bunch played the cat and mouse game. A rider who possesses panache and charisma, but also impressive climbing skills, Julian decided to take advantage of the status quo between the big guns and took the matter into his own hands, attacking three kilometers from the finish and getting a gap on the other. The stage honors went to Costa, who outsprinted the Russian to take the race lead, while the 24-year-old Frenchman finished stage 3 less than one minute behind, which was enough to make his way into the top 10 overall.
"I tried my best today and gave it all to close the gap to the leaders, but the guys up front had a significant advantage. Still, I'm not disappointed, as coming fifth on the stage and taking the jersey is a nice result. Overall, it was a good test ahead of my next races. Now my focus will be on tomorrow's stage, where we'll try to help Marcel get another victory", said Julian Alaphilippe, who in the white jersey standings enjoys a 19-second cushion over the second placed rider.
Photo credit: ©BrakeThrough Media