Complete Live Report
Welcome to live coverage of the opening stage of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour
The riders have just rolled out from the start for this 174km opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Plenty of stars have flown out to Abu Dhabi this week for what will be their final race of the season. Here is a look at the all-star start list for the race. There are two non-starters today with Tanner Putt suffering a training crash, while Jacopo Guarnieri - who was brought in to replace the injured Joaquim Rodríguez, has come down with flu.
Today is a chance for the sprinters and Peter Sagan will be looking to take his first win in the rainbow stripes. He spoke to Cyclingnews ahead of the race, telling us how he hopes to stay grounded and why he's gone for white shorts.
And here is a picture of World Champion Peter Sagan riding a camel ahead of the race. An unfair advantage? Picture courtesy of twitter user @Askcyc.
Another confirmed non-starter is MTN-Qhubeka's Youcef Reguigui, who has been unable to make it to the race due to visa problems. That will be a blow to them, as they look to end their season on a high. They do still have Theo Bos and Matt Goss as their sprint hopes.
It's a hot day out there for the riders in Abu Dhabi with the temperatures going over 46 degrees. No breakaway yet as the riders stock up on water.
There are two sprint opportunities before the finish in today's stage. As well as the points earned for the green jersey competition (8, 5, 3 and 1 points), they will get 3,2 and 1 bonus seconds as the first three over the line. The winner of today's stage will get 10 bonus seconds too.
Here are the riders heading out from Qasr Al Sarab a little while ago.
While the Abu Dhabi Tour is predominantly made up of sprint stages, the GC riders can look forward to the hilltop finish on stage three that should decide the overall standings. Astana will be looking to continue their great run of the last few weeks, with Fabio Aru set to support Vincenzo Nibali.
News of a breakaway coming through. The riders out front are Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18), Songezo Jim (MTN-Qhubeka), William Clarke (Drapac), Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai), Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare) and Michael Thompson (WIGGINS).
The six breakaway riders currently have a lead of 4:30 on the peloton.
No real surprise to see a Skydive Dubai rider in this break, but no one from the UAE national team has made it in.
The Abu Dhabi Tour is a new race on the UCI calendar and the UCI president is Brian Cookson...which is a tenuous link to this latest feature on Cyclingnews.
We have an exclusive Q&A with Cookson, who discusses issues like rider safety, Astana, ASO, sponsorship and the Women's WorldTour.
You can read it by clicking here.
The leaders' advantage has ducked under four minutes.
There's no proper climbing on this stage, and it should come down to a bunch sprint, but that's not to say it's flat. We're in among the rolling dunes of the Rub al Khali desert and the road is constantly undulating. In fact, the race organisers claim the riders will rack up a total of 1200 metres of vertical gain.
Anyone see this one coming?
It seems Paco Mancebo is executing his plan pretty well. He said on Twitter yesterday that he would try and get himself in the break today, before riding tomorrow in the bunch ahead of the hilly stage 3. Then he plans to be back out front on the fourth and final stage.
- 116km remaining from 174km
The gap is starting to come down towards the three-minute mark now.
This is a map of the day's stage. The riders are not too far from coming into Liwa, the oasis in the centre of the route.
Have you listened to the latest episode of the Cyclingnews podcast yet?
We discuss the route for the 2016 Giro d'Italia, Marcel Kittel's move to Etixx-QuickStep, and Ivan Basso's retirement from professional cycling. We also hear from Kittel and Basso themselves, along with Alberto Contador and Tom Dumoulin.
- 104km remaining from 174km
Drapac's William Clarke winds things up at the first intermediate sprint and duly comes out on top. He earns himself 8 points in the green jersey standings and 3 bonus seconds in terms of overall time.
After two hours of racing, the average speed today stands at 34.8km/h.
It looks like Michael Thompson (Wiggins) has fallen away from the breakaway.
The remaining breakaway riders have seen their lead come down in the last few kilometres. It has ducked below the three-minute mark now.
It's baking hot out there, with temperatures pushing well into the 40's. Riders are variously splashing themselves with water and suncream.
The heat is so severe, in fact, that the stage has just been shortened, we are hearing. Organisers have decided to take out the final 15km circuit in the town of Madinat Zayed.
There's no official reason yet for the change to the route, but it must have something to do with the heat and the fact that the riders are trudging along out there. The average speed has been less than 35km/h so far. Cyclingnews' Stephen Farrand is out in Abu Dhabi at the race and will have all the details shortly.
All change in the route, all change out front. The breakaway now contains just three riders, as William Clarke and Alessandro Bazzana fall away.
Clarke looks pretty uncomfortable as he drops back into the bunch and opens up a can of coke - an attempt to get some sugars back into the system on such a dehydrating day.
Clarke has now been dropped by the peloton and looks to be in a pretty bad way. He's on his own and will now face a struggle to stay in this race, with the prospect of two more hours out there on his own in 45-degree heat.
Songezo Jim has been dropped by the break now. Just two left up there - Voss and Mancebo.
We've just heard from Stephen Farrand in Abu Dhabi, who tells us that riders themselves are behind the shortening of the course. They asked race director Mauro Vegni for the final circuit to be cut and he agreed.
Voss comes off Mancebo's wheel and wins the intermediate sprint, taking 8 points in the black sprint jersey standings.
With 55km left to race, the leading duo have 1:45 on the peloton.
Mancebo wasn't too happy with Voss coming round him at the intermediate sprint. As Voss sat up to recover, Mancebo burst past him on the other side of the road and has now left him behind. Mancebo is the lone race leader.
Sagan seems like he's out there for a sightseeing tour rather than a bike race.
@SadhbhOS Thu, 8th Oct 2015 12:01:43
A reminder of the race map. There's no final circuit at the finish now - just one long, nightmarishly straight road to the finish line.
Imagine riding 50km on your own in a straight line....Mancebo can can probably see the finish on the horizon. And we were already feeling sorry for the riders...
Mancebo's making a good fist of it - he's stretched his lead back out to three minutes. That said, it's not like the peloton is in any real hurry behind.
Mancebo has pushed his lead out to 3:20 with the peloton willing to let the Spaniard dangle out there with 42km to go. Back in the bunch Kittel looks utterly unimpressed with the hot conditions as he surfs around the back of the pack. It's a long, hard, hot slog out there today.
It's Team Sky who continue to pull the peloton along, with Lampre and Giant Alpecin among the teams just a little futher back. The is back under three minutes.
And predictably Mancebo is starting to struggle out there, his advantage over the peloton back down to two minutes.
Mancebo is almost free-wheeling now with the bunch closing to just 1'25 with 36km to go. Will they put him out his misery?
The Spaniard gives the chalkboard timer a nod and then moves out the saddle as he gives it one last push but with Lampre joining the pace settting, it's almost all over.
- 31km remaining from 174km
BMC have also moved into life at the front of the peloton as Manebo holds onto a 42 second lead.
Mancebo caught but his teammate Rafaa Schtioui goes up the road with just under 30km to go.
Schtioui is carving out a handy little advantage here. He's up at two minutes now with 23km to go.
- 20km remaining from 174km
Etixx, Lampre, and Astana on the front of the bunch as they start to coordinate a chase.
This would be my idea of hell. It's a wide dual carriageway and a straight road stretching out into the distance. In this heat. It must be soul-destoryingly dull.
2:10 for Schtioui at the moment with just over 16km to go. He's making a really good go of this, with the pace having been stepped up in the bunch.
Before we get down to the conclusion of this stage, have a read of this feature from Cyclingnews writer Patrick Fletcher, who dissects the implications of Mark Cavendish's transfer to MTN-Qhubeka/Dimension Data.
- 13km remaining from 174km
Schtioui's lead is beginning to tumble now as Sky hit the front of the bunch. The Tunisian national champion has less than 1:30 now and that's ever-falling.
Leopold Konig is doing a big turn on the front, with the imposing figure of Stijn Vandenbergh second wheel.
Attack! Philippe Gilbert puts in a huge dig and draws a response from a panicky peloton.
A Bora rider goes after Gilbert, then an Astana man follows. Those caught napping scramble to get themselves back in contention.
Things back together in the bunch but that attack from Gilbert will have had a softening-up effect. It's had an effect on Schtioui's lead, now down at 40 seconds.
The peloton has to be guided safely through a couple of enormous inflatable jerseys either side of the road, held in place by precariously-positioned concrete blocks.
Just over 5km to go now and it's time to get things organised. Team Wiggins hit the front now.
Kittel and Mezgec in there for Giant-Alpecin. Who'll be working for whom?
Just over 3km to go now and Schtioui is dowsing himself with water. He still has a decent gap here - about 15 seconds - but surely he can't stay away.
- 2.5km remaining from 174km
Who's going to take it up? There's hesitation in the bunch here.
And here it is. BMC take it up, with Orica's train down the right.
Etixx get their train lined up and they're closing in on Schtioui with 1.5 to go.
The catch is made just ahead of the flamme rouge.
Valverde takes it up for a moment, but now Etixx are back not he front. Crucial bend coming up
Etixx lead through the right hander...
Sagan opens it up with a teammate on his wheel
And Andrea Guardini comes round and takes the win!
Tom Boonen just pipped Daniele Bennati to second place there
Guardini had to do that on his own there but what a sprint he produced, winning by a comfortable margin. The Tour de Langkawi specialist must like the heat
1 Andrea Guardini (Astana) 04:21:11
2 Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep)
3 Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo)
4 Andrea Palini (Skydive Dubai)
5 Marco Canola (UnitedHealthcare)
6 Edwin Alcibiao Avila Vanegas (Colombia)
7 Elia Viviani (Team Sky)
8 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar)
9 Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon18)
10 Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin)
Guardini is also the new race leader since he picked up 10 bonus seconds for crossing the line first.
An eighth victory of the season for Guardini, who loves those smaller races. He's also won at the World Ports Classic, Tour de Picardie, and Tour of Oman, on top of his now customary four stage wins at Langkawi.
This is Guardini celebrating earlier in the year at Langkawi but he did pretty much the same thing here.
That's it for our live coverage of the Abu Dhabi Tour for today. We'll be back tomorrow for full live coverage of stage 2. I'll leave you with our stage report.