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Friday Race Brief: Winds of Change in Dubai, Valencia and Besseges

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February 3, 2017 – Two young men who made a career breakthrough at last year’s Vuelta a España were in the win column on Friday. Danish rider Magnus Cort Nielsen of Orica-Scott took a field sprint to win stage 3 of Spain’s Tour of Valencia, while Frenchman Lillian Calmejane of Direct Énergie scored a fine solo success on stage 3 of the Étoile de Bessèges in France. Meanwhile, there was no racing at the Dubai Tour because of continued sandstorms in the desert and, in Australia, Team Sky’s Luke Rowe took his first victory since winning a stage of the Tour of Britain five years ago.

John Wilcockson/ANSA

Breakaway again succeeds at Herald Sun Tour

Luke Rowe, 26, is one of Team Sky’s strongmen for the spring classics, normally backing up Geraint Thomas or Ian Stannard. The Welshman got just reward for all his hard work on stage 2 of the Herald Sun Tour on Friday. Rowe jumped into a 10-man breakaway early into the hilly 165.6km stage from Mount Beauty to Beechworth and was then instrumental in creating a four-man splinter group from which he eventually broke clear for the win. “I opened up a decent gap straight away so I enjoyed the last 20km solo,” he said to the team website. “It’s been an ongoing joke [that] I haven’t won anything for a long time.”

Rowe finished the stage 33 seconds ahead of Irishman Conor Dunne of the new Acqua Blue Sport team, with American Tanner Putte of UHC in third, another 23 seconds back. Australian Damien Howson (Orica-Scott) still leads the race overall by 38 seconds over Jai Hindley of the Australian National Team, with Team Sky’s French climber Kenny Elissonde in third at 53 seconds. A sprint finish is expected on Saturday’s 167.7km stage 3 from Benalla to Mitchelton Winery.

Strong winds scupper Dubai Tour stage 4

The fourth stage of the Tour of Dubai was cancelled on Friday because of strong winds that posed a danger to the riders. The 172km penultimate stage to Hatta Dam would have left riders exposed to extremely windy conditions. “Out of concern for the riders’ security it was decided to cancel the fourth stage and hold the final stage (Saturday) as planned,” organizers said. There was a bid by the riders to hold a time trial up the finish climb to Hatta Dam, but this would have broken a UCI rule on changing the nature of a stage in UCI-sanctioned stage races. Germany’s Marcel Kittel leads the overall standings going into the 124km final stage around the streets of Dubai’s old and new towns on Saturday.

 Dane surprises French sprinters in Spain

As he did on two late stages of last September’s Vuelta, Denmark’s Magnus Cort Nielsen of the Orica-Scott team proved unstoppable in a bunch-sprint finish to stage 3 of the Tour of Valencia on Friday. The Dane emerged in a classic burst for the line after a long flat run to edge renowned French sprinters Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis and Bryan Coquard of Direct Énergie.

Belgium’s Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing maintains the overall lead after he finished in the front group Friday. Saturday’s 180.9km stage 4 features a summit finish on the Category 1 climb of the Alto Mas de la Costa.

Solo win for Calmejane in France

The 24-year-old French hope Lilian Calmejane took the second victory of his short career on Friday at the Étoile de Bessèges. The first win came on a summit finish of the 2017 Vuelta; the latest win came at the end of a stage that saw 25 riders finish 15 minutes ahead of the rest. It helped that Calmejane’s experienced Direct Énergie teammate Sylvain was also in the front group and assisted him in his late attack. Calmejane finished seven seconds ahead of runner-up Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin), with Italian Mauro Finetto taking the sprint for third place ahead of French veteran Samuel Dumoulin.