The 3rd stage of the Dubai Tour had it all, crosswinds, crashes and a crazy bunch sprint which John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) managed to win just ahead of our South African, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) secured the final stage podium placing.
Today the Dubai Tour peloton made its way across country, from the West Coast to the East Coast over a distance of 200km. The early part of the stage was pretty much par for the course as 4 riders escaped and began to build on their advantage. The sprinters teams, including Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka with Jay Thomson, committed some troops to control the gap.
There was always this lurking threat of crosswinds as the race passed the desert sand dunes between the two coastlines. When the race reached this point with still 110km to go, the peloton was greeted by a sandstorm of note. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were attentive to the elements and even forced the pace in the gutter. Some riders crashed under the pressure and the peloton split into numerous echelons. Janse van Rensburg, Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw, Scott Thwaites and Nic Dougall all made the front split of 19 riders.
It was panic stations behind as all the other race favourites had missed the move. Marcel Kittel (Quickstep-Floors) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) both had to commit their teams to the chase in order to bring back the front split. As a general regrouping took place, there was a lull in the pace as the sandstorm made riders consider neutralising the race.
Once order had been restored it was business as per usual in setting up the bunch sprint. With added confidence after our efforts in the wind, our African Team started to position our train 20km’s out. Thomson ensured the 4 rider break was caught before the finale and then it was flat out to the finish in Al Aqah for the last 10km. After a lengthy pull by Dougall and then Ryan Gibbons to keep our train neck and neck with Team Sky, Thwaites, Bernhard Eisel and Janse van Rensburg hit the front but Renshaw and Cavendish were not on the wheel.
Eisel held up the front end of the race, hoping to reorganise the troops but when Quickstep-Floors and Trek-Segafredo picked up the pace again with just 3km to go, our trio had to go with it. Janse van Rensburg was right there in the mix and took it open himself to open the sprint. As our South African fast man hit out down the right of the road, Degenkolb got into his slip before just being able to out-lunge Janse van Rensburg on the line.
Reinardt Janse van Rensburg – Rider
What a crazy stage. First it was chaos in the crosswinds. I never seen something like it. In the sprint we lost Cav and Renshaw behind in the sprint and not seeing them I decided to give it a go in the last kilometer. I managed to bump my way onto Degenkolb’s wheel but went a bit too early in the sprint. He was able to beat me just on the bike throw. It would have been a great early birthday present, but we will try again tomorrow.