The opening stage of the UAE Tour was the first opportunity for teams to test their team time trial under race conditions in the relative comfort of long, wide roads and it was Jumbo-Visma that drew first blood, beating Team Sunweb by seven seconds, with Primoz Roglic taking the first leader's jersey of the race as the first to cross the line.
Jumbo-Visma were in the middle of the start list, chasing down Bahrain-Merida who had started five minutes before them. Bahrain-Merida went fastest, but they would not have time to make it to the hot seat before Jumbo-Visma went nine seconds quicker. It was then a tense wait as the Dutch squad waited for the remaining teams to finish, particularly with rival Tom Dumoulin and his Team Sunweb team still to come.
"We knew that it would be really close, and we were all quite nervous waiting until the last guys finished and see which place that we finished," Roglic said in the post-stage press conference.
"It's really nice that we start with a win, but the more important thing was that we showed that we can ride well in a team time trial and that was a really good feeling.
"When you see all the names that are starting in the other teams, it puts things into perspective. Today each and every one of the guys gave 110 per cent. It was really nice to get the reward with the victory."
Building success with every second
Victory is a solid start to the race for Roglic, who harbours hopes for the overall title. However, the margin is small, with just seven seconds to Dumoulin and Wilco Kelderman and eight to Nibali behind him. Jumbo-Visma will have plenty of work to do over the coming week with two mountain-top finishes and the tricky uphill finish of Hatta Dam. Time bonuses could also play a vital part in deciding the final winner.
"Luckily, it is seven seconds to our advantage. It's always better to have an advantage in the end," Roglic explained.
"Of course, we have some hard stages to come, and we just have to go with a strong team behind me and take it day by day and we will see how the stage will go.
"I cannot see in the future what the result will be at the end, I can tell you the fact, some guys have already done some races, they were strong, some guys are coming directly from training camp at altitude so we are all trained well. We'll see what that means at the end. The most important thing is that we all give 110 per cent and at the end we can be happy."
The UAE Tour is Roglic's first race of the season as he builds towards his main target of the Giro d'Italia in May, his first time at the race in three years.
"Our goal is the Giro and I think I have to be as sharp as possible a little earlier," Roglic said.
"With the Tour you always have more time left so that you can start the season easier and then you can improve. With the Giro you have it quite soon so it's good that we have already showed that we’re already on the right way preparing really good."
Stage 2 of the UAE Tour will see the sprinters get their first outing with a pan-flat from the Yas Mall to the Abu Dhabi breakwater.
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