Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
As we join the action the are 138km left to race. We have a break of five riders, with the peloton lined out in pursuit, 3:20 behind.
The big news of the day is obviously the crash and subsequent abandon of Mark Cavendish.
He went down in the neutralised section of the race, got going again bu then was forced to retire. His Dimension Data said he crashed on the same shoulder he fractured during the 2017 Tour de France, when he crashed with Peter Sagan.
133km remaining from 189km
The break is about to fight for the points at the first intermediate sprint.
All five sprint hard and are spread across the road.
Nikolay Trusov (Gazprom) is declared the winner but it was close.
The five riders in the break now grab bottles from their soigneur but quickly push on.
The peloton rolls through the feed zone and riders grab bottles, as the gaps falls slightly to 2:50.
Several teams are sharing the work on the front of the peloton to ensure the stage ends in a sprint.
We've seen Mitchelton-Scott, Lotto Soudal, Katusha-Alpecin and Quick-Step Floors take turns up front to keep the gap to the break under control.
To read more about Mark Cavendish's crash, click here.
This screen grab shows Cavendish with several teammates just after the crash.
This image from the race organisers shows Cavendish climbing into a Dimension Data car after he was forced to quit the race.
His team said he landed on the same shoulder that he fractured after crashing with Peter Sagan at the 2017 Tour de France.
122km remaining from 189km
The five riders are working smoothly together but the peloton is chipping away at their lead as they head south to the turn point of the stage.
The race is currently covering an out and back loop close via Liwa and the spectacular sand dunes.
The dunes mean the road rolls up and down but without any real difficulty for the riders.
The riders contest the second sprint in Liwa before the straight 45km return section leads the riders towards the finish in Madinat Zayed.
116km remaining from 189km
Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) is back amongst the team car but is being lead back up to the peloton by several teammates.
The riders have the huge sand dunes in front of them now. There is also a slight breeze blowing from their left, forcing a mass echelon across the road as riders look for protection on the wheels.
111km remaining from 189km
The break has reached the turn point of the stage and crosses paths with the peloton.
Both seem to playing mind games at the moment, with the gap steady at 2:00. The fight to stay away and to make the catch will cone in the finale on the road back to Madinat Zayed.
While we wait for the race to explode, why not catch up on other news on Cyclingnews.
Chris Froome's salbutamol case is still ongoing, with the Team Sky rider set to next ride Tirreno-Adriatico.
However Geraint Thomas has told Cyclingnews that he is preparing to be team leader at the Tour de France if Froome is absent or not due to his salbutamol case.
Editor-in-chief Daniel Benson spoke to Geraint Thomas at the recent Volta ao Algarve.
Thomas said: "Mentally I'll be ready to do the best I can overall, and if Froome is there then I'd still like to stay up in GC as long as I can. That first week, especially with the wind and the cobbles, so much can happen. I think it's good to have two guys."
Click here to read the full interview.
105km remaining from 189km
The slight wind is having an impact on the race now.
The speed is higher and riders are keen to avoid riding in the wind.
This is the map of today's stage. The riders are still in the rolling sand dunes section of the stage.
Italian national champion Fabio Aru drops back to the team car.
He is making his season debut in the Abu Dhabi Tour, which is the home race for his UAE Team Emirates team. He will be under pressure to perform well in the GC, while Alexander Kristoff targets the three sprint stages.
95km remaining from 189km
The stage is at the half way point now. From now on the pace will only get faster and faster.
It's lunch time in the race as riders pass through the feed zone and grab musettes. The stage is 189km long and so the feed zone is a chance to grab cold bottles and some solid food.
The peloton feeds as the road rises slightly. It's slightly chaotic but organised.
Riders spread out down the road and grab their musette. They quickly sling it over their shoulder, accelerate back up to speed and begin to fill their pockets.
It seems that everyone made it through the feed safely, though some riders still have their musette over their shoulders as they ride at speed on a slight descent.
85km remaining from 189km
Who is your favourite to win the sprint in Madinat Zayed?
The Abu Dhabi Tour is arguably the biggest sprint show down of the season so far, with the majority of big-name sprinters in the race.
The big name sprinters include Elia Viviani (Quick-Step), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates).
Front wheel flat for Pierre Rolland of EF-Drapac.
He gets a quick wheel change and starts to chase in the line of team cars.
He should have no problem getting back into the peloton. He carefully slipstreams behind the team cars as he closes the gap.
The race average speed is 42.789km/h so far, making it easy for the Frenchman to get back into the peloton.
Other riders are also coming back up after collecting bidons for their teammates.
It is 31C out there and so riders are drinking lots of liquids.
Riders from Quick-Step Floors, Mitchelton-Scott and Lotto Soudal are now sharing the work of chasing the break.
Behind them the Movistar team is lined out together, protecting leader Alejandro Valverde and the probable designated sprinter Daniele Bennati.
The sand dunes south of Liwa are known as the Empty Quarter of the UAE.
They have a golden colour that offers a stunning back drop to the race but also allow the breeze to blow across the race.
70km remaining from 189km
The riders are 10km from the end of the Liwa sand dunes loop and the second intermediate sprint of the 189km stage.
Up front Nikolay Trusov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing Team),Vincenzo Albanese (Bardiani CSF), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk) are riding steady and smoothly to try to hold their lead and save their energy for any late attacks and surges in speed.
The wins is forecast to blow at 15km/h from the NNW. When the riders turn onto to straight roads for the final 45km it could become a factor.
On the way south the riders enjoyed a tail/side wind. on the way back it could be a side/head wind and so spark some action.
64km remaining from 189km
The speed is high as the sprint approaches. Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) is in his usual place, at the back of the peloton.
The road rises slightly now in the dunes, in the approach to the sprint.
A touch of wheels sees several riders go down.
They include Minali of Astana, whole other riders rode into the sand at the side of the road.
Up front Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) has kicked off the sprint by making an strong surge.
He clearly wants the intermediate sprint jersey.
He's going flat out to stay away. If he takes maximum points he will wear the special black jersey on stage 2.
Skujins reaches the red arch first and takes the 8 points.
58km remaining from 189km
Skujins logically eases up and the other four breakaways join him.
Svein Tuft is doing the hard work on the front for Mitchelton-Scott. He is working to protect Caleb Ewan's chances in the sprint.
At the sprint arch, the peloton is timed at 2:50.
Albanese and Trusov ware confirmed as second and third in the sprint.
The gap to the break has fallen to 2:00 thanks to the work of the 'breakaway' chasers. However the peloton is relaxed as they flow along in the slipstream.
We can see big-name overall contenders such as Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Rohan Dennis (BMC), Rafa Majka (Bora) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) in the peloton.
The race is now on the long, straight road back to Madinat Zayed.
The only corners left in the stage come in the final 2km with a right and ten left turn leading to the finish.
50km remaining from 189km
As we enter the final 50km of the stage, the gap is down 1:15.
This has been the landscape for much of the stage. Now the pursuit of the break is on.
Our race photographers also captured the moment Mark Cavendish crashed.
47km remaining from 189km
As the kilometres tick down, the break appears to have fallen apart.
Albanese and Trusov have been distanced by Caruso, Skujins and Planet.
Young British rider James Knox has been given the job of helping the chase for Quick-Step Floors.
He is a climber and so will not be used in the high-speed finale and sprint lead out.
Upfront Skujins decides his time in the break is done and eases up. He will probably still help out Trek-Segfredo in the finale.
39km remaining from 189km
The gap is down to 55 seconds. We're about to enter the finale of the stage but if the peloton catches the break too soon, it could inspire attacks.
As the sun begins to fade and the shadows become longer out on the road, the peloton can see the break up the road. The four are just 400m ahead now.
Albanese takes a final bidon from the Bardiani team car and gets some final instructions from his DS.
We can expected the young Italian to try to make a final attack to try to hold off the peloton.
This a real cat and mouse situation, with the peloton easing up so as not to catch the break too early.
33km remaining from 189km
The pace is steady but the tension is starting to ride in the peloton. After a quiet day in the peloton, every lead out train and every sprinter will be fresh and determined to try to win.
30km remaining from 189km
The break see the chalk board and know they lead the peloton by 1:00.
They seem to keep it steady for now by not pushing the speed. However we can expect a late acceleration to try and catch the peloton napping.
It rarely comes off but after a day out front, it is worth trying.
Behind the peloton some riders are dropping back to the team cars to collect a final set of bidons before race judges 'close the bar' with 20km to go.
It is not permitted to collect bidons or anything from the team cars in the final 20km of a race for safety reasons.
The headwind on the road back to Madinat Zayed has cracked the break now.
Planet jumped away and is joined by Caruso. The BMC rider is a climber and GC rider but clearly wants to test his legs today by going in the break. his effort means his teammates can sit in the peloton with no obligation to do any work.
Trusov and Albanese slip back to the peloton. Their time out front is done.
Now Caruso and Planet have upped the pace.
25km remaining from 189km
The situation remains the same with a single rider from Quick-Step Floors, Mitchelton-Scott and Lotto Soudal leading the chase of the duo left up front.
However Caruso and Planet have upped their pace.
All the other teams are lined out behind the three on the front as the straight road dips and rolls.
Behind Tuft arches his back and puts down some big watts as he does a long turn on the front of the peloton.
20km remaining from 189km
With 20km to go, Planet cracks and Caruso pushes on alone.
It was a big day put for Charles Planet, all the Novo Nordisk riders have diabetes but he showed his ability as a rider.
The Novo Nordisk team is invited to the races in the Middle East to help promote the treatment of diabetes. They do their part by getting in breaks almost every day.
Caruso is pushing on alone. He is tucked over his bars in an aero position as he tries to hold off the peloton.
17km remaining from 189km
Planet is caught by the peloton but he can proud of his ride.
15km remaining from 189km
There is a slight breeze blowing from the riders' right. It is lining out a part of the peloton but the sprinters are all protected by their teammates.
The races passes the Shams solar power station. It is apparently one of the world’s largest, with a capacity of 100 megawatts covering an area of over 2.5km2.
We can expected some big watts to be produced during the sprint finish very soon.
13km remaining from 189km
With 13km the peloton is all back together, Caruso is caught, but no teams wants to take control just yet.
10km remaining from 189km
Who is your favourite to win the stage?
In one online poll, Kittel has secured 53% of the votes. If his Katusha-Alpecin team get it right and he has the speed to finish off, it could be his day.
The fast finish also seems perfect for Quick-Step Floors and Elia Viviani.
10km remaining from 189km
The headwind means nobody wants to take control of the peloton just yet. This is getting tense.
Teams are in formation near the head of the peloton but the speed is steady.
We expect a surge in speed and fight to lead into the two turns in the final 3km. Position will be vital for the left and then right turns that lead to the finish.
Previous winners include Mark Cavendish and Giacomo Nizzolo.
Cavendish crashed in the neutralised part of the stage today and retired. He will not be sprinting today.
The Dimension Data team has confirmed that Cavendish suffered concussion and whiplash in his crash.
7km remaining from 189km
The sprint trains are finally forming. Katusha is on the right of the road and moving up.
Movistar is in the middle of the road, as is Gazprom.
6km remaining from 189km
Quick-Step Floors is further back but riding for Viviani.
The riders are packed tight now. It will be dififcult to move up.
Team Sunweb is near the front. They're riding for Nikias Ardnt and to protect Tom Dumoulin.
4km remaining from 189km
Katusha seem determined to lead into the first right turn.
But so do Sunweb.
AG2R are up front.
It's a race to the corner.
LottoNL-Jumbo up the pace on the left of the road.
3km remaining from 189km
Quick-Step Floors is well placed for the two corners in the final 3km.
They swing right at speed. Everyone is safe but next is the left turn into the finish.
2km remaining from 189km
Quick-Step and Dimension Data are in control for now.
Mitchelton are leading out Ewan.
1km remaining from 189km
They swing left. Here we go!
It's Quick Step V Mitchelton
Quick Step lead out Viviani.
Kristoff takes it!
The UAE Team Emirates rider hit out early from the pack but had the speed to hold off Viviani who took his own line up the left after his lead out.
Kristoff seemed blocked in with 500m to go but as Quick-Step switched to sides, the road opened for him. He got on Ewan's wheel and then opened up his long sprint.
Viviani tried to get his wheel but was beaten.
Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF) came up along the barriers but could only finish second as Kristoff celebrated.
Ewan was third.
Viviani was fourth and Britain's Dan McLay (EF-Drapac) fifth.
It seems there was also a slight head wind in the finishing straight and so coming off the wheels was the right tactic.
Kristoff admitted that he lost his lead out train but picked the right line and had the power to move up through the pack of other sprinters.
"In the final I lost my rhythm and I lost [lead-out man Roberto] Ferrari, but then I found Caleb Ewan in the end and I know he’s fast. He started to really go for the sprint but I was in the draft and then managed to come round and hold on in the headwind all the way to the line," Kristoff said.
Kristoff was happy to win in the UAE after joining the team for 2018.
"It’s a great win for me and the team, on home ground. It takes the pressure off now and it’s a really nice feeling," he said.
"I’m really proud to get the win, my second win of the season. It’s a great feeling to start off like this in a new team."
This is a road-side shot of the finish, with Kristoff coming down the middle of the road.
Kristoff is happy to have won in the UAE.
Kristoff explained to Cyclingnews that he is riding a a 'fake February Grand Tour' by combining the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Oman and the Abu Dhabi Tour.
It seems to be working. He clearly had the speed and form to win today.
This is the top ten for the stage:
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
2 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF
3 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
5 Daniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
6 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7 Michael Bresciani (Ita) Bardiani CSF
8 Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
9 Rudy Barbier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
Thanks to winning the first stage Kristoff also pulls on the race leader's red jersey and will wear it on stage 2.
This is the general classification after stage 1. Thanks to time bonuses of 3-2-1 seconds, the five break away riders also feature in the top ten overall.
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates 4:48:14
2 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF 0:00:04
3 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:06
4 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
5 Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani CSF
6 Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:07
7 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09
8 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:10
9 Daniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
10 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida.
Kristoff also pulled on the green points jersey. Ewan took the best young rider's white jersey, while Trusov took the intermediate sprints black jersey.
This image captures the moment Kristoff hits the line first.
Here is Kristoff in the leader's red jersey.
Sadly the stage also saw Mark Cavendish crash in the neutralised section of the stage and then retire due to injury. He suffered concussion and whiplash according to his Dimension Data team.
Click here for the full story and photos of the crash.
Kristoff was very happy to have taken his second victory of the season.
Te read his initial reaction and for our full stage report, photo gallery and results, click here.
Stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour on Thursday is from Yas Mall to Yas Island. The 154km stage covers a twisting around the north of down town Abu Dhabi.
Stage 2 is another day for the sprinters because the stage profile is pan flat.
Thanks for joining us for live coverage of stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour. Join us tomorrow for more live coverage.
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