Marcel Kittel took his second consecutive stage victory at the Dubai Tour, sprinting to victory after a stunning effort to stay in a reduced leading group.
With a few short climbs to negotiate towards the end of the 160km stage, injections of pace by the likes of Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) appeared to have taken the sprinters out of contention.
Martin’s team-mate Mark Cavendish was among the riders forced to the back of the leading group and Slovakian hard man Peter Sagan (Cannondale) appeared to be favourite for the stage.
But Kittel, who had been hidden in the bunch in the final kilometres, emerged in the final kilometre and timed his sprint to perfection, without a lead-out, to take a hard-fought victory.
Taylor Phinney meanwhile stayed in the overall lead after finishing safely in the leading group.
Earlier, six riders formed the day’s break with four continental teams represented up the road alongside Astana’s Evan Huffman.
Willie Smit (Vini Fantini) and Diogo Nunes (Banco-BIC-Carmim) once again attacked from the flag, with the South African taking both intermediate sprints to strengthen his grip on the classification.
Nunes’ team-mate Valter Pereira also joined the break, which was completed by Ruslan Karimov (RTS-Santic) and Alexandr Pliuschin (Sky Dive Dubai).
BMC Racing again led the bunch in pursuit of the six escapees, with Trek Factory Racing – riding for Giacomo Nizzoli – also putting riders on the front.
Karimov was the first of the escapees dropped, cracking on a slight incline after 120km of racing.
The two Portuguese team-mates then dropped back to the bunch after the second intermediate sprint, to leave Smit, Huffman and Pliuschin up the road.
After three hours in the saddle, they still retained an advantage hovering around the two and a half minute mark but an injection of pace by the Moldovan was enough to distance Huffman.
Smit clung on, despite his exertions in the break the previous day, but BMC and Trek remained in control of the bunch at a manageable distance behind.
Having done the majority of the work since splitting the break, Pliuschin then decided to go it alone with a burst of speed which distanced the South African with 22km to ride.
Looking at ease up the road Pliuschin maintained a steady lead around the two-minute mark, and as the finishing line drew closer his team-mates began to make a nuisance of themselves in the peloton.
Team bosses soon latched on to the very real possibility of Pliuschin’s lead holding and the evidence of the fear setting in was clear when BMC brought their team car along the riders.
With Pliuschin at one point the virtual leader, BMC Racing upped the pace in the bunch with the strain visible on the team’s faces as they hauled the bunch forward – Rick Zabel and Sebastian Lander pulling huge shifts on the front.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) also dropped back to his team car, which was followed by the Spanish team also putting riders forward.
Pliuschin still had to negotiate two climbs in the final ten kilometres however, and with Brit Alex Dowsett (Movistar) joining his team at the front of the bunch, with BMC riders dropping out the back, the gap eventually tumbled.
Pliuschin was caught shortly before cresting the first climb, with the bunch becoming animated as the attacks and counter-attacks started.
Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Valverde and Phinney were all at the front, with an explosion of power by first Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and then Valverde blowing the bunch apart.
A group of around 40 riders were still in contention when the rainbow jersey of world champion shot up the road with three kilometres to go.
BMC Racing remained in hot pursuit however, never allowing the Portuguese rider much of a lead and Britain’s Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) caught Costa shortly after the one kilometre to go kite
Garmin-Sharp’s Dylan van Baarle led the sprint out but Kittel emerged in perfect time to launch his sprint and pip Movistar’s Juan Jose Lobato to victory.
Dubai Tour 2014 – stage three result
1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Giant-Shimano – 3.47.52
2) Juan Jose Lobato (ESP) – Movistar – ST
3) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale
4) Dylan van Baarle (NED) – Garmin-Sharp
5) Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (SAF) – Giant-Shimano
6) Wouter Poels (NED) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar
8) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Sharp
9) Nikolay Trusov (SVN) – Tinkoff-Saxo
10) Jesus Herrada Lopez (ESP) – Movistar
1) Taylor Phinney (USA) – BMC Racing – 6.50.24
2) Steve Cummings (GBR) – BMC Racing +15”
3) Lasse Norman Hansen (DEN) – Garmin-Sharp +17”
4) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +23”
5) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Trek Factory Racing +26”
6) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale +29”
7) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Giant-Shimano +33”
8) Adriano Malori (ITA) – Movistar – ST
9) Maciej Bodnar (POL) – Cannondale +36”
10) Peter Velits (SVK) – BMC Racing +38”