UAE Tour 2019: Two wins in a row for Alejandro Valverde on Jebel Hafeet as Primoz Roglic maintains lead
The Spaniard's tactics that won him the stage when it was part of the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2018 work again
Alejandro Valverde acknowledged it was a case of thriving on familiar turf as he won a stage on top of Jebel Hafeet for the second successive year on Tuesday.
Twelve months ago the Spaniard had perfected his climb to triumph in the mountain stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, with the result giving him overall victory in the event as well.
Moving forward to Tuesday, with the route now serving as Stage 3 of the UAE Tour, the 38-year-old said using the same approach to the challenging ascent had paid off as he came out on top to win again, with the result moving him up to second place in the standings.
"I felt good and I had the advantage of knowing the climb very well so I could choose my pace," he said. "I knew I had to repeat the exact same tactics as year."
The Movistar Team rider came out on top of a fierce duel in the closing stages with Primoz Roglic and David Gaudu.
The trio were all credited with a time of 4 hours, 44 minutes and 50 seconds, but it was Valverde who crossed the line first.
For Valverde the result was also sweet as it was also the first time he had been victorious since winning the UCI Road World Championships in September.
“I really wanted to get my first win of the year,” Valverde said. “My priority was to win a stage. If I can add the GC [general classification], it's great. If not, it doesn't matter after what I achieved today with the help of my team.”
Despite having to settle for second best on Tuesday, it is still Roglic who holds the leaders' red jersey, as he has done since the event began on Sunday.
He leads by 14 seconds from Valverde and the Slovenian was upbeat over his day's work and his prospects for holding on to the lead until the completion of the race on Saturday in Dubai.
“It's true that I've tried to win the stage as well as defending the jersey," the Jumbo-Visma rider said. "It was my first time here so I didn't know the finish but most importantly we've showed today with the guys that we are a super strong team.”
The riders had raced close together until they began the climb to Jebel Hafeet. The first two riders to breakaway with a strong pace were Patrick Bevin of CCC Team and Diego Ulissi of the UAE Team Emirates.
They were joined by Robert Power of Sunweb with only a little more than seven kilometres to go, but they only held 12 seconds advantage on the main group led by Roglic.
Dan Martin of UAE Team Emirates pushed to the front with 4km left and briefly set the pace ahead of a small group behind him.
Valverde then took over and he and the pair of Roglic and Gaudu pulled away to fight at the front, with Martin eventually coming in fifth, 12 seconds behind the lead trio.
Martin is sixth in the overall standings, 54 seconds behind Roglic, and he said: “It’s not what I wanted, but I am still happy with my performance. My guys did an incredible job for me and it showed the real spirit of the team.
“Fernando [Gaviria] won yesterday and then he’s riding in the wind for us today, which proves that we are all here together and trying to get the best results possible.
“As for the GC, there are still a few complicated stages to go – especially with the wind – so we are going to take it day by day.”
Updated: February 26, 2019 08:09 PM