Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini led a one-two finish for Trek-Segafredo on day three of the inaugural UAE Tour Women on Saturday.
The Italian pair went clear of the chasing pack halfway into the 10km climb to the summit of Jebel Hafeet and then crossed the finishing line hand-in-hand with Borghini just ahead of her teammate to take the stage victory.
That result moved Borghini seven seconds ahead of her teammate on the leaderboard, with UAE Team ADQ’s Silvia Persico, who joined them on the podium, third overall.
The leader’s red jersey has now changed hands three times in as many days with Borghini claiming it for Sunday's final stage in Abu Dhabi.
“This is the way you always dream to win, together with your teammate!” Borghini said.
“Today we owe a lot to Gaia. She was just incredible setting a hard pace and when we found ourselves alone on the climb, we decided to try to go to the finish and celebrate together.
“I wanted Gaia to win the stage but Team DS decided to let me win. I really want to say a big thank you to Gaia and the rest of the team.”
Realini's efforts were rewarded with the 21-year-old being awarded the young rider white jersey.
“Today was a very hard stage, but it was incredible for me,” Realini said. “It's my first season riding for a big team, and my first race for them, so I'm delighted to be on my first podium.
“Elisa and I had a good rhythm on the climb and it unbelievable to cross the line together. This has been a big day for us.”
Flagged off at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, the riders set a strong pace on the 107km route.
Five riders formed an early breakaway but they were caught as the peloton approached the final climb of the day.
As the speeds ramped up, pre-race favourite Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez) was dropped and the peloton's numbers continued to get thinner in the last 10km as the world's best climbers came to the fore.
The fourth and final stage is a 119km route from Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy to Abu Dhabi Breakwater, finishing with a 40km flat run-in, where the overall champion of the UAE Tour Women will be crowned.
Stage 3 top three
1. Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) Trek-Segafredo: 2hrs 48min 24sec
2. Gaia Realini (ITA) TrekpSegafredo: Same time
3. Silvia Persico (ITA) UAE Team ADQ: 1 min 11 secs