By Sports Reporter/Doha
Tunisian rider Meher Hasnaoui of Skydive Dubai Team emerged overall winner of the Tour of Zubarah as Eugen Wacker of KCP Kuwait Cycling Project won the 119.86km-long third stage at Zubarah yesterday.
Kyrgyzstan’s Wacker clocked 2hrs:45mins:08secs to outsprint Naser Rezavi of PKY Pisghaman Giant Team and Hasnaoui for the stage.
The 26-year-old Hasnaoui braved a strong head-wind to post his maiden win.
“I was second in the general classification until yesterday. I like the windy conditions and I’m lucky that we had the conditions which help me. I’m delighted with the win,” Hasnaoui said.
“It was very hard for me and the team. But finally, we won the Tour of Zubarah. It is really a big achievement for us. We’ll come back next year to defend the title here,” said Hasnaoui.
Hasnaoui, the winner of the first stage, gave a perfect finishing touch to his team’s strategy, which placed him in the 18-rider main group along with lead teammate Andrea Palini.
The group had all the three overnight jersey holders as well – Team Giant RBS’ Jacob Tipper (Yellow), points leader Palini and youth rider Mahdi Rajabikaboodcheshmeh.
Palini and Tipper were both tied for the points’ honours before the start of the final day. First, the Italian unsettled the Briton and won the opening intermediate sprint. Then Tipper used his energy and clinched the second sprint ahead of Palini in a bid to collect more points.
Without any support in the peloton, Tipper began to feel tired. Then Skydive Dubai upped their game and sent Hasnaoui to attack, which split the peloton. As the 190-cm tall Tunisian powered ahead and the breakaway got about 45 seconds ahead of the chasing bunch, Tipper did not have enough strength to chase the splinter.
While Hasnaoui, the UAE Cup champion, went on to finish third behind the former double Asian ITT and Herald Sun Tour winner Wacker and Pishgaman Giant’s Rezavi, Tipper fell far behind and was visibly dejected at having lost the chance of winning the title. Wacker’s victory moved him to the second overall and Rezavi picked the last podium place.
“This is a big surprise for me. There was a strong head-wind for us. I am not a sprint specialist. But we were very lucky today. I managed to stay with the breakaway with 10k to go and kept pushing myself till the final sprint,” Wacker said.
“I’m very happy with this performance. This was the last stage of the race but it’s really a big one for us. Now I hope that this win will help us finish better both in the GC and Team Classification,” he added.
Skydive Dubai’s pre-race favourite Palini was also pleased with his performance. “It was a good race. Our team took both the Yellow and Red Jerseys. I’m satisfied with my race here as I got the Red Jersey. We’ll go back home and rest, before preparing for the next race next year.” Abdullah Afif of Qatar National Team finished 23rd in the general classification, one place above than Qatar’s Ahmed Bassam al-Bourdainy, who represented Sharjah Team in the tour.
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