Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
- Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 hub page
- Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 race preview
- Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 start list
- Quintana and Contador set to clash at Abu Dhabi Tour
- I love the 1990s – A look back at cycling's decadent decade
Hello and welcome to out full live coverage from the Abu Dhabi Tour. The sun is out and the riders are rolling to the official stage start.
We will have full coverage of the 189km stage.
The riders are in the neutralised section, chatting to friends and teammates. The racing will begin very soon.
Stage one includes an 8km ride to the official start and then 189km of racing.
It's currently 22C in Abu Dhabi, with a light 15km/h breeze.
The stage is called the Emirates Motor Company stage and is on an out and back route from Madinat Zayed.
It is flat, with only a few ripples in the sand dunes at the half way point.
The flag has been dropped and the racing has kicked off. We have the first attack of the day.
The peloton is cruising at 35km/h, happy to let the first attackers go clear.
The break of six riders has already opened a gap on 1:00 as they work smoothly together.
The six in the break are powering clear, the gap is now 2:20.
The Abu Dhabi Tour is one of the 10 new WorldTour races for 2017, meaning it has more importance for the leading teams.
Many of the best squads have sent their strongest climbers and team leaders, knowing that Saturday's mountain finish will decide the race and who scores the vital ranking points.
The three other stages are perfect for the sprinters and so Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Caleb Ewan and Andre Greipel are all in Abu Dhabi too.
To understand just how mouth-watering the sprint show down should be, read this story on the sprinters in the race and their hopes and ambitions.
It includes gallery of photos from Wednesday's last training ride and press conference.
The difference in speed between the break and the peloton is remarkable. The break is riding at 46km/h, while the peloton rolls along at 35km/h.
As a result the gap is now up to 4:25. The peloton will soon have to begin a chase. The sprinters' teams will soon have to put at least one rider on the front to do the chasing.
Indeed we can see the peloton lined out, with Dimension Data, Quick-Step Floors and Bora-hansgrohe riders leading the peloton.
The six riders in the break are Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates), Artur Ershov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), David Lozano (Novo Nordisk), Artyom Zakharov (Astana), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF) and Kazushige Kuboki (Nippo-Vini Fantini).
Their lead has settled at 4:40 as the peloton begins to control the race.
156km remaining from 188km
The six breakaways are working smoothly together, pushing their lead up to 5:00.
The road through the desert is flat and straight, with the peloton lined out as they pursue the break.
@BMCProTeam Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 09:35:27
Lotto Soudal and Orica-Scott have also placed a rider at the front of the peloton to help the chase of the break.
In the peloton the sprinters looked relaxed for now. Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel are enjoying a chat.
After the first hour of racing, the six breakaway riders still lead by 5:00. They are working hard but must know the sprinters' teams will eventually hunt them down.
The race is heading deep into the Abu Dhabi sand dunes with the orange-coloured sand offering a stunning back drop to the race.
Today there is no risk of strong winds and echelons as we saw in the recent Dubai Tour.
Mirco Maestri has a camera on his bike that is capturing live on-board footage from the breakaway.
@TeamSky Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 09:59:41
133km remaining from 188km
The Abu Dhabi Tour held its pre-race press conference on Wednesday and such is the depth of talent in the field for the new WorldTour race, two banks of tables were needed to accommodate those considered the 14 'top riders'.
As Mark Cavendish, sat dead central, put it: "You don’t even see this in Grand Tours anymore."
General classification favourites for this year’s Giro d’Italia and Tour de France are hardly in short supply, but Cavendish is part of an equally stellar sprint cast that includes Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani.
“This is probably the best sprinting field I’ve raced in since turning pro,” said Ewan, now in his third season as a professional. Greipel added: “It’s never easy to win sprints, and when you have the sprinters that we have here it doesn’t make it any easier.”
It's intermediate sprint time!
The riders are fighting for the special jersey and every point today will count.
The final metres are slightly down hill, with all six riders fighting for the points.
Mori gets it by half a bike length. He is no doubt keen to show off the UAE jersey in the team's home race.
Behind the pace is far more controlled, with teams riding together to protect their leaders.
Alberto Contador is tucked in behind his new Trek-Segafredo teammates near the head of the race.
The peloton reaches the intermediate sprint point exactly 5:00 behind the breakaway.
@TeamDiData Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 10:12:11
It was fascinating to hear the sprinter's talk about their chances and ambitions yesterday. Some, like Kittel, have already won several times, others, like Cavendish and Viviani have yet to land a win.
Three of the four stages at the Abu Dhabi Tour are dedicated to the fast men.
Thursday's opening stage takes place in the desert and is followed by a similarly flat course in the city the next day.
The final stage will once again take place under the floodlights on the Formula 1 circuit, where Cavendish won last year and Viviani the year before.
Inbetween is the mountain stage to Jebel Hafeet, where the GC riders will emerge from the peloton to do battle.
Viviani is perhaps most in need of a victory this week.
“I’ve already got four second places and I hope that doesn’t continue,” said a less-than-relaxed Viviani, who has come up against a Quick-Step shaped wall so far this season, losing out to Fernando Gaviria twice and Boonen once in San Juan before being beaten by Kittel at the Dubai Tour.
Like a striker in football, the importance of getting a win under the belt early on can’t be understated; no one wants to head into March with nothing on the board.
That said, Kittel, who racked up three stage wins and the overall title in Dubai – where Cavendish and Viviani were also present – insists he’s treating Abu Dhabi as if he were starting from zero.
“It’s a pretty big difference,” he said of his win count when later talking to reporters, “but I guess the most important thing now is to really keep the focus, and not say ‘Okay I’ve already got some wins it’s not so important here’.”
The television cameras capture Vincenzo Nibali sat quietly in the peloton. It is a quiet day for the overall contenders so far but they will have to be careful in the fast finale.
115km remaining from 188km
Up front the six breakaways are still doing quick turns on the front and then moving over to let the next rider through.
They will soon hit the slightly rolling roads in the dunes.
Their leads is down to 4:40.
While Kittel is well off the mark and Cavendish and Viviani lag behind, Greipel is once again showing the consistency that has landed him Grand Tour stage wins in nine successive seasons, with two wins already to his name – one from Challenge Mallorca and the other the Volta ao Algarve.
The most prolific sprinter of the lot so far is the youngest of them all. 22-year-old Ewan was utterly dominant at the Tour Down Under, winning all four flat stages. The young Australian has won a stage at the Vuelta a Espana but is yet to land a victory against one of the top pure sprinters.
“I’ve raced all these guys before but not all together so I think this is the first time I’ll come up against them all together in the same race,” Ewan told Cyclingnews.
“If I had to pick someone [who I fear the most] I reckon Kittel is probably going the best. After watching him in Dubai he was sprinting super good. It’s hard to tell when all these guys come together, if you do something really small wrong it can cost you the race, because these guys are on such a high level.”
110km remaining from 188km
The riders in the break are having to go deeper with their efforts on the front as the roads begins to climb and roll in the dunes.
Their lead is down to 4:20.
Kittel is used to having the support of what is probably the strongest lead-out set-up in the sport, but he’ll be forced to fend more for himself in Abu Dhabi.
That’s because the race’s newly acquired WorldTour status means all-important WorldTour points are on offer and, with considerable reward stretching right down the general classification.
“We don’t have a usual lead-out team here because the focus is more on GC – you can grab a lot of WorldTour points when you have lots of GC guys at the front,” explained Greipel.
It’s the same for Cavendish, though the Dimension Data rider still has his trusted lieutenants Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel.
“We don’t have a big lead-out train. As it’s WorldTour there are big points on offer for GC, so we have lots of climbers but we’ll give it our best shot,” he said.
The break has passed through the feed zone and grabbed their musettes. It's lunch time.
The average speed so far has been a stready 42kmh.
Now the peloton eases to grab their musettes at the feed zone.
Riders sling them over their shoulders, take out the fresh bidons first and then check what the team has made them for.
It will be important eat and drink before the expected high-speed finale.
Marcel Kittel and his Quick-Step Floors team dominated the sprints in the Dubai Tour but with teams also thinking of the important mountain finish, the Abu Dhabi Tour are expected to be very different.
For Kittel, it’s “very likely” that we’ll see messy sprints as a result, with disorganised final kilometres and plenty of scrapping for position.
“Not everyone has a big lead-out train because the GC riders also are here in all the teams,” said the German. “It’s always difficult to find position a bunch sprint, but that’s also the challenge. It’s something we’ve seen in the last few years, it’s a development in that direction – you don’t need huge lead-out train anymore, so it’s probably a good thing to have a smaller group.”
Crash! An Astana rider goes down. It's Pello Bilbao. He seemed to go down hard.
Bilbao is getting treatment from the race doctor but seems in pain.
95km remaining from 188km
There is a slight cross wind which is making riders stay on the wheels but it is not strong enough to spark echelons for now.
The stage is at the half-way point and so the break can see the peloton from the other side of the road.
The gap is now 3:35.
The peloton also takes the 360 turn and begins the ride back to Madinat Zayed.
After the turn, the wind is blowing from the riders' left side.
Interestingly Mark Cavendish's Dimension Data team has moved near the front of the peloton, ready for any echelon action.
In the peloton rider are no longer smiling. The race will soon get very serious and fast.
We've got a special series of features looking back at racing the 1990s.
Today William Fotheringham recalls the 1992 world championships in Benidorm, Spain, when Gianni Bugno won his second consecutive title.
It's a great read and highlights just how little was known about the impact EPO was about to have on the sport.
Click here to read Remembering Gianni Bugno's 1992 Worlds win.
Click on the link to read the introduction to the 'I love the 1990s – A look back at cycling's decadent decade'
@MeridaProRoad Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 11:24:48
Petr Vakoč is doing a lot of the chasing for Quick-Step Floors and Marcel Kittel.
75km remaining from 188km
The vital work of the domestiques is pulling back the break. The gap is down to 1:50.
As the riders head back to Madinat Zayed the risk of echelons seems to have diminished. Cavendish has eased back to the rear of the peloton. However Kittel is staying vigilant near the front with several teammates.
70km remaining from 188km
The sprinters and their teams are playing games with the break. They do not want to catch them for now.
We've got some early photos from the stage start. It's a big day for the sprinters but most were relaxed.
Alberto Contador got a cheer at the start.
65km remaining from 188km
The break seems to have ran out of steam as the road climbs gradually.
The six-riders lead by just 1:20 now.
The attackers are playing games for the second intermediate sprint. Mori and Zakharov have a slight lead on the other four.
It's a close sprint.
Mori goes shoulder to shoulder with Zakharov but the veteran Italian gets it.
Kuboki (Nippo-Vini Fantini) caught the duo near the line and was third in the sprint.
The riders took 3-2-1 time bonuses. That will help them we well placed overall after the finish sprint. However with 10-6-4 seconds awarded at the line, the stage winner will be the first leader of the race.
Crash! Several riders go down.
Juraj Sagan is one of those to go down. He's getting assistance from his team.
Dowsett is the latest to fall. We've 56km to go with the bunch in a relatively relaxed mood for now. Nibali chats to a teammate, Cavendish just stares ahead.
The gap is down to 1'50 with three riders left in the break.
Roughly 1km separates the front of the break from the peloton, as Lotto Soudal begin to move towards the front of the bunch. No real urgency from the main field at the moment, and they have the three-man break under control.
Owain Doull has returned to racing here in Abu Dhabi. He was set to race at the Tour Down Under but his appendix burst just days before the race. He stayed in Australia to recover for a while - say him hobbling around the race hotel a few times - but he's back now and racing in Sky colours for the first time this season.
You can read about his form and health, RIGHT HERE.
No sign from Team Sky at the front of the race just yet but the break are being reeled in with Lotto Soudal posting a man at the head of the bunch. The gap is at 1'26 with 44km to go.
@BMCProTeam Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 12:28:53
35km remaining from 188km
The break leads by just 1:10 now. it's time for one last bidon from the team car before the finalchase begins.
30km remaining from 188km
The peloton can now easily the three-riders up the road.
Romain Bardet of AG2R stops for a rear wheel flat. He is quickly away and chasing with a teammate.
Marcel Kittel was relaxed as he signed on this morning. It will be interesting to see how he and Quick-Step handle the high-speed finish.
It is interesting to see that Marcel Kittel is again using disc brakes despite the position taken by the CPA riders association and reported by Cyclingnews here.
Several teams are still helping with the chase of the break but the sprinters' teams are starting to come together and move up to the head of the peloton.
Today's stage and finish is virtually the same as that raced last October in the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Giacomo Nizzolo won that day, with the sprinters realising that positioning was vital in the three corners in the final kilometres.
The last left turn is part of a roundabout and comes with 1km to go. It will be difficult to move up after the corner because the speed will be very high.
With the peloton so close, the riders in the break attack each other. Kuboki is dropped, leaving just Mori and Zakharov up front.
However the two have also eased up and are about to be caught.
As the sun fades over Abu Dhabi and a huge solar power station captures the last rays, the race comes back together.
Thanks to his efforts in the attack, Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates) will pull on the black jersey after the stage as leader of the intermediate sprints competition.
The teams are now fighting for position. The finale will be tense and hectic as teams work to protect their overall contenders and big-name leaders, while also trying to win the sprint.
The teams are tightly packed together. The breeze is coming from their left and so the riders are squeezed on the right side.
@quickstepteam Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 13:05:51
Some trees offer protection and so the peloton splits into two parts across the road.
10km remaining from 188km
The teams will all accelerate soon to lead into the three corners.
Lotto Soudal takes charge as Greipel talks on the radio and then tells his guys to move to the right.
No one team has committed to lead the peloton just yet. There are lines of riders spread across the road.
Katusha is trying to move up on the right but it is a risky place to be.
Sunweb and Quick-Step is on the right, Bahrain is acceleration on the left.
7km remaining from 188km
Movistar moves to the front to protect Quintana in the high-speed chaos.
The riders take the first right turn at speed and stay together.
UAE is also moving up to help Swift and Guardini.
Trek-Segafredo is also up front, protecting Contador.
5km remaining from 188km
The riders flow through a left turn at speed and hit a wider road. Quick-Step are now on the front.
Contador is one of the riders delayed. He takes a teammates bike and starts to chase.
Several teammates have dropped back to help him.
Contador was unlucky to crash with 5km to go, so he has to chase to limit any time losses.
All the Trek-Segafredo team is helping him close the gap to the peloton.
He maks it but that was a scare for the Spaniard.
Contador took a teammates bike and so is on a bike that is not the right size.
2km remaining from 188km
Back up front, the Orica team take charge with Quick-Step Floors.
Ewan has three teammates, while Dimension Data also move up with Cavendish.
Kittel also has three teammates to lead him out.
Last Km but there's a crash!
Several riders went into the barriers.
Dimension Data lead out.
Renshaw sets up Cavendish. He hesitates and stays on Bonifazio's wheel and then sprints to victory.
Both Kittel and Ewan missed out after being caught up in the late crash.
Cavendish beat Greipel and the rest of the peloton to take his first win of 2017.
Kittel has still to cross the line. He rides in but seems to have hit his right knee.
Owain Doull of Sky also crashed and lost lots of skin and ripped his shorts.
Thanks to winning the stage, Cavendish is also the first race leader and pulls on the red leader's jersey.
Provisional results show that Cavendish beat Greipel, Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida), Simone Consonni (UAE), Elia Viviani and Roger Kluge (Orica-Scott).
Cavendish and his Dimension Data lead out timed their move perfectly. Bonifazio went far too early and so Cavendish cooly jumped on his wheel and then kicked at the right time to hold off any late charge from Greipel.
@TrekSegafredo Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 13:35:33
@OricaScott Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 13:33:26
The peloton was split slightly by the late crash. Due to the three kilometre rule it should mean that none of those affected will lose time.
As some riders lick their wounds, Cavendish climbs onto the top step of the podium as stage winner.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 04:37:06
2 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
3 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
4 Simone Consonni (Ita) Team UAE Abu Dhabi
5 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
6 Roger Kluge (Ger) Orica-Scott
7 Alexander Porsev (Rus) Gazprom Ð Rusvelo
8 Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
9 Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani CSF
10 Eduard Grosu (Rom) Nippo - Vini Fantini
Cavendish also pulls on the red jersey as first race leader.
He was close to victory in the Dubai Tour despite a lack of great form. today he proved he still one of the best in the hectic sprints.
Cavendish also took the green points jersey. He hugged and thanked his teammates after they did such a vital job in the finale of the stage.
@SadhbhOS Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 13:45:46
In the heat of the moment, there are suggestions that Marcel Kittel's disc brakes may have caused some injuries in the crash.
Kittel said that nobody was really to blame but confirmed the sprint was very nervous.
@felixmattis Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 13:45:08
Cavendish praised his teammates and revealed they studied last year's sprint, when he finished third, to perfect their strategy.
“I can't fault anyone in the team. If I'd lost it would have been only my fault. It was the same finish as last year and I was only third then, with us having made some mistakes. We went through what we did wrong last year, tried to do the complete opposite and that's what happened,” Cavendish said.
We have the first images from the sprint, showing Cavendish winning the sprint.
The 188km stage was a quiet affair until the hectic finish. First Alberto Contador was caught in a crash with 5km to go, forcing him to chase to avoid losing time.
Then the late crash, with 1km to go, saw Kittel, Ewan and several other riders go down.
We will have a full stage report and news and interviews on the causes on the crash very soon on Cyclingnews.
Alex Dowsett (Movistar) crashed mid-stage and in the finale but told his team he was not injured.
@Movistar_Team Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 14:05:31
In this image Cavendish celebrates his win ahead of Greipel. The rider on the right is young Italian sprinter Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates).
Consonni finished an impressive fourth after avoiding the late crash and coming from behind.
The Orica-Scott team have confirmed that Caleb Ewan managed to get up after the crash and finish the stage.
@OricaScott Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 14:10:16
For a full stage report, results and photo gallery, click here to see our report page for stage one of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
We'll have further reaction and interviews from riders very soon.
Thanks to his stage victory, Cavendish took the race leader's red jersey and the green points jersey.
Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) took the white best young rider jersey, while Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates) took the black jersey after winning the two intermediate sprints while in the break of the day.
Marcel Kittel has revealed he crash on his chest, with his hart rate monitor taking much of the impact.
Riders and teams have begun to issue their initial reaction after the stage.
Tejay van Garderen is leading BMC and was happy to miss the crash.
"It was the fairly relaxed stage for us as we knew coming into today's race that we would be looking at a sprint finish," he said via his team.
"I felt good on the bike for my first day racing of the year, and with the chaos at the finish, I am happy to cross the line in one piece."
Manuel Quinziato was also making his season debut with BMC.
"Today was a good first race-day of the season, I had to delay my start due to illness, but everything is now getting better," he said.
"It was a pretty quiet race until the last 20km, that was when it started to get a bit crazy with crashes and echelons. But it made me remember exactly what it's like to be part of a professional bike race."
The crash has sparked further debate about the use and risks of disc brakes in the peloton after Owain Doull's show appeared to have been cut by a disc.
Several riders took to social media to voice their concerns.
@alexdowsett Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 14:35:21
@alexdowsett Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 14:36:24
Owain Doull has tweeted after his crash, confirming he was not seriously injured.
However he confirmed that a dis brake did cut into his shoe.
@TeamSky Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 14:43:45
@inrng Thu, 23rd Feb 2017 14:43:58
Doull also spoke to Cyclingnews after the stage.
He said: "My shoe was cut to pieces. That’s definitely a disc break that has done that,” said Doull.
"It’s gone straight through the shoe into my foot. It’s lucky that’s not my leg to be honest. If anything I’ve come off lucky there, if that’d been my leg it would have cut straight through it, for sure. You’ve seen my shoe – it’s gone straight through that."
To read the full story on Doull's reaction after his shoe was cut in the crash, click here.
The Orica-Scott team have given a further update on Caleb Ewan.
The team said the 22-year-old sprinter was able to finish the stage but afterwards complained of pain in his shoulder.
“The boys where in a good position and we where set for a great final,” explained sport director Dave McPartland.
“It looks like Caleb took a good hit to his shoulder, it doesn’t appear to be too bad but he will go to the hospital to double check things.”
“He was conscious of what happened and was able to get back on his bike and at least ride to the finish.”
For more information on the crash and its consequences, click here to read our special story.
Stay with our live coverage as we continue to follow the consequences of the crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour and what it means for the use of disc brakes in the peloton.
To see the highlights from stage one of the Abu Dhabi Tour, click here.
The video highlights captured the moment of the crash as the riders pass under the one kilometre to go banner.
It's a busy moment of racing in the early season, with action also in the south of France and especially this weekend in Belgium for the opening races on the cobbles.
To get ready for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, listen to our special podcast.
Now in its third season, the Recon Ride pre-race show teams up with Cyclingnews to present a double-header preview episode for Belgium's "opening weekend."
After the injuries to Doull and suggestions it was caused by a disc brake, it will no be up to the UCI to act.
Before going into his team vehicle, Marcel Kittel explained what happened in the crash.
"I was in the wheel of Sabatini as we were closing in on the line, then Owain Doull came from the back and our handlebars got stucked in each other, and I crashed and lost some skin," he said via the Quick-Step team.
"Things like this happen when everyone is nervous in the final and wants to be in the front. It's a pity, because I felt good today and the team worked really well. It's a bit of a setback, but at the same time it motivates me even more for the next stages."
We have further reaction from Mark Cavendish after his victory.
"Today we did our tactical homework. We studied the finale from this stage last year. We did it all wrong last year. We really studied last year and we did the opposite. In the end it went exactly as we planned in team meeting. I didn't really have to do anything," he said.
"The whole race will 100% be decided on Jebel Hafeet, as it always has been. There are too many sprinters' teams here to let a break go and gain a lot of time."
"I get the biggest boost today from the fact that my team didn't do anything wrong. I'd be grovelling for an apology if I hadn't won today. It's special to win here and get the Red Jersey. It was a goal but I'm most happy with how the team rode."
The crash in the final kilometre of the has sparked debate about the safety of disc brakes in the peloton and the riders' request for covers.
We will have further news and reaction from the race and on the safety issues on Cyclingnews.
Thanks for following our live rolling coverage from the stage and the post-stage. Join us tomorrow for live coverage from stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
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