JEBEL HAFEET: UAE Team Emirates’ Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogacar celebrates upon crossing the finish line to win the third stage of the UAE Cycling Tour from Al-Ain to Jebel Hafeet yesterday. – AFP

JEBEL HAFEET: UAE Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar took a major step towards victory in his team’s home cycling Tour winning the first climbing stage yesterday to strengthen his hold on the overall lead. The Tour de France champion had already started the day in the leader’s red jersey and finished it by beating last year’s UAE Tour winner Adam Yates.

The Ineos team leader here Yates now sits second, 43sec behind with one more climb stage to overhaul the on form Slovenian. Yates took the battle to Pogacar with a series of accelerations on the way up the 10km 5.4 percent gradient Jebel Hafeet climb.

Only Pogacar could follow Yates as the other contenders, chiefly the brilliant Portuguese rookie Joao Almeida dropped away with Yates’ relentless attacking. But under immense pressure to win this Tour Pogacar refused Yates’ pleas to launch a joint bid to distance the others.

Instead, from a position of strength he sat on Yates’ wheel and then skipped away from him over the final 400m. The Briton almost overhauled him on the line and the pair finished on the same time of 3hrs 58min 35sec. Almeida and the chasing group crossed the line 48 seconds off the pace, leaving the Quick-Step man in third overall at 1min 03sec. – AFP