Welcome to the opening stage of the Dubai Tour from Skydive Dubai to the Palm Jameirah.
95km remaining from 167km
Welcome one and all to the first day of racing action at the Dubai Tour. The riders are well on their way with 95 kilometres of today's 167km stage remaining.
Five riders have a 2:10 gap on the peloton. They are Andy Fenn (Aqua Blue), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Cofidis), Mohammed Almansoori (United Arab Emirates), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing) and Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk).
Daniel Teklehaimanot was a late addition to the Cofidis team for the Dubai Tour after he secured a contract just a few days ago. He will certainly be trying to prove something to his new employers. Read about his late move here.
Interesting that Aqua Blue have put Andy Fenn into the breakaway. Having Fenn up there will mean they don't have to work in the peloton and can save their legs. Fenn is a solid sprinter but Adam Blythe will be their main man for what is likely to be a sprint finish today.
It's the halfway point of the stage with a touch over 80 kilometres remaining. The riders are enjoying a few light refreshments as they head through the feed zone.
It is a pleasant day for racing in Dubai with the temperatures hovering in the mid 20s. There is a small wind but nothing that will worry the peloton.
This year has seen the race extend to five days. The format is relatively similar to what it has been in previous years with the Hatta Dam the centrepiece of the general classification. For who and what to look out for, read Stephen Farrand's preview of the race.
Having won the race twice in the past two years, Marcel Kittel must surely be the man to beat this week. The German is here in different colours after switching to Katusha-Alpecin over the winter. He has much of Alexander Kristoff's old lead-out with Marco Haller and Rick Zabel in their line-up. Alex Dowsett will be a key part in controlling the bunch for Kittel over the next few days.
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger)
2 Alex Dowsett (GBr)
3 Marco Haller (Aut)
4 Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus)
5 Marco Mathis (Ger)
6 Nils Politt (Ger)
7 Rick Zabel (Ger)
Katusha-Alpecin is very visible on the front of the bunch with their new red and light blue look. Punctuating the Katusha line is the dark blue of Kittel's old team Quick-Step Floors. It is Tim Declerq putting in the work for the Belgian squad's new sprinter, Elia Viviani. The Italian already has a win on the board from the Tour Down Under and will be looking to add to his tally in Dubai.
71 Elia Viviani (Ita)
72 Tim Declercq (Bel)
73 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned)
74 Yves Lampaert (Bel)
75 Fabio Sabatini (Ita)
76 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger)
77 Niki Terpstra (Ned)
European champion, and former Katusha-Alpecin rider, Alexander Kristoff is also making his debut with his new team. He now rides for local squad UAE Team Emirates. The Norwegian is looking to find form for the Classics and told Cyclingnews over the winter that he is taking on a February 'Grand Tour' to give him the racing base he needs before he heads to Belgium. He's got some strength behind him, including Filippo Ganna, but his lead-out is not as strong as he's enjoyed in the past.
141 Alexander Kristoff (Nor)
142 Anass Aït El Abdia (Mar)
143 Matteo Bono (Ita)
144 Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor)
145 Simone Consonni (Ita)
146 Filippo Ganna (Ita)
147 Yousif Mirza (UAE)
63km remaining from 167km
The peloton is chipping away at the advantage of the leaders as we make our way towards the Palm. Just 1:4 now for the five out front and Quick-Step Floors takes over the front.
Mark Cavendish missed out on a stage win here last year. With Dimension Data for his third season, the Manxman will be looking to get off to a strong start. Got his long-time helpers Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw with him in Dubai, as well as new signing Julien Vermote. The pair were teammates a couple of years ago when Cavendish rode for Quick-Step and he moved over to the team during the winter.
91 Mark Cavendish (GBr)
92 Mekseb Debesay (Eri)
93 Bernhard Eisel (Aut)
94 Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier Werkilu (Eri)
95 Mark Renshaw (Aus)
96 Jay Robert Thomson (RSA)
97 Julien Vermote (Bel)
John Degenkolb is another sprinter in Dubai looking to get plenty of practice in. Degenkolb has got his year off to a very strong start with two wins at Challenge Mallorca. In fact, it has been a brilliant start to the year for Trek-Segafredo, who are also here with Giacomo Nizzolo, who won the final stage of the Vuelta a San Juan.
121 John Degenkolb (Ger)
122 Eugenio Alafaci (Ita)
123 Matthias Brändle (Aut)
124 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita)
125 Grégory Rast (Swi)
126 Toms Skujins (Lat)
127 Boy van Poppel (Ned)
The peloton is strung out into single file at the moment as we close in on the final 50 kilometres of today's stage. It's still Katusha-Alpecin and Quick-Step Floors right at the front of the peloton. BMC Racing and Trek-Segafredo are also up there now and LottoNL-Jumbo has put a rider towards the front for Dylan Groenewegen.
As well as Aqua Blue, Cofidis is using the opportunity of having a rider out front to avoid working on the front of the bunch. They will be working for Nacer Bouhanni today, who has seen some chances around him in the team. New team manager Cedric Vasseur is trying to push the team forward and has cut down Bouhanni's sprint train to force him into working more for himself. We'll see how well that works for him over the coming weeks.
Rally Cycling is riding their first season at Pro Continental level after making the jump up this winter. They're making the most of their new status to ride a much more international calendar and will be racing in the Middle East throughout February.
They're very present near the front right now and have a couple of options in the finale today with Brad Huff and Eric Young. We'll see how they fare against some of the WorldTour sprinters in the bunch today.
81 Jesse Anthony (USA)
82 Robin Carpenter (USA)
83 Charles Bradley Huff (USA)
84 Tyler Magner (USA)
85 Brandon McNulty (USA)
86 Danny Pate (USA)
87 Eric Young (USA)
The gap between the two groups is still steadily coming down. With 48 kilometres remaining, the five leaders have just 1:22 on the peloton.
A lead-out could be key to winning today's stage and we can already see them forming in the bunch. Lead-outs are a fine art and we took a look inside Marcel Kittel's new sprint train before the season got underway. You can listen to that here as we close in on today's finale.
Back in Europe, Team Sky confirmed yesterday that Chris Froome would be making his race debut at the Ruta del Sol next week. Froome is still under investigation by the UCI for his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol. However, as the asthma medication is a specified substance, Froome is allowed to race while the case is ongoing.
The average race speed so far has been a relatively zippy 43.4kph.
35km remaining from 167km
The gap is drifting back up as the peloton eases up and a few riders veer off for a comfort break. The peloton obviously feels that they've got this very much under control with the gap at 57 seconds with 35km to go.
If you missed the news last night, up and coming American rider Adrien Costa said that he was not yet ready to return to racing with Axeon in 2018. The 20-year-old hasn't raced since April 2017. Read the full story here.
The Dubai Tour is not the only racing going on today. The inaugural Colombia Oro y Paz (gold and peace) will get underway later today. The team presentation took place last night and you can take a look at our gallery of the event here.
25km remaining from 167km
We're closing in on the palm quickly and the peloton has sprung back into action. With 25km remaining, the leaders have just 35 seconds. Their day's are numbered out there.
It's still very much Katusha-Alpecin and Quick-Step leading the way in the peloton. They're understandably confident of their chances today, but there are a lot of sprinters in there looking for a win.
As the peloton closes in on the leaders, Andy Fenn has taken a flier. Charles Planet is the only rider who has been able to close him down thus far.
21km remaining from 167km
Their chances of succeeding are minimal, but you can never say never. Fenn's attack gives the rest of the Aqua Blue team a bit more respite in the peloton and it gives both teams a bit more airtime on the television.
The other three escapees decided not to fight the attack from Fenn and they have now been brought back by the peloton. Meanwhile, the two out front now have 43 seconds on the bunch behind.
The peloton is ramping up the pace but they'e not at full chap just yet. They don't look too worried about this two-man move with 19 kilometres still to run to the line.
17km remaining from 167km
Katusha has just one rider on the front of the bunch with the whole of the Quick-Step team behind him. LottoNL-Jumbo are moving up, but have not yet put anyone to work with Katusha more than happy to pick up the slack for now.
Planet has cracked out front. Fenn made another little dig as they moved from a side road onto one of the highways and Planet just didn't have the legs to follow. He sits up, shaking his head. It's just Fenn now with a 1:03 gap on the bunch.
Fenn leaves the desert behind him as he enters the city. He's got 58 seconds on the bunch but there is still a long way to hold out for the British rider. Planet has been quickly swallowed up by the peloton.
13km remaining from 167km
Fenn is a strong workhorse as well as a decent sprinter. He has ridden for both Team Sky and Quick-Step Floors in the past, before joining Aqua Blue last season. Behind him, he's putting the peloton to work as the gap goes back out to 1:06.
Bahrain-Merida is moving up the peloton. They've got Sonny Colbrelli for the sprint today. They also have Vincenzo Nibali in their team. He was a late addition after he had to pull out of the Vuelta a San Juan due to illness.
It is still Katusha-Alpecin and Quick-Step Floors doing much of the work but Dimension Data is now coming up the left side of the road. Fenn's gap is coming down pretty quickly now. It's just 33 seconds with 11km to go.
Willier Triestina showing their bright yellow on the right of the bunch. They have their hopes on Jakub Mareczko today.
10km remaining from 167km
We're into the final 10 kilometres of today's stage and the gap to Fenn has fallen to just 18 seconds. It is not looking likely for Fenn right now.
As the peloton goes under the banner it is as if the peloton springs into life. The road is wide and almost every team is trying to get a position near the front.
Gruppo compatto as Fenn is brought back with just over nine kilometres to go.
The peloton has been heavily reduced by this injection of pace as riders drift off the back.
Despite that, there is a crash in the bunch. Looks like two of the Bahrain-Merida riders touched wheels in the middle of the pack.
It looks like Colbrelli is still upright as his team continue to work near the front. Astana lost a lot of riders in that crash. Let's hope there aren't any serious injuries.
The peloton is in the tunnel as they make their way onto the Palm.
6km remaining from 167km
The peloton emerges and it looks like everyone made it through safely. Quick-Step Floors lead the way.
Dimension Data are up there along with UAE Team Emirates. Katusha still visible but they have been swamped a little bit. Cofidis trying to battle forward for the first time today.
This is going to be a frenetic finale with so many big names in contention for the victory.
Degenkolb is working for Trek-Segafredo right now. Nizzolo must be the nominated rider today.
The peloton is skirting around the seafront at a huge pace. Kristoff and his European champion's jersey is visible about five riders back on the right.
A hairpin bend with three-kilometres to go and the peloton stings out drastically. Quick-Step Floors back on the front and Aqua Blue's Adam Blythe is on the back of their train.
2km remaining from 167km
Some riders are going to have to surf the wheels, there is not enough room for all the sprint trains as the road narrows.
There is a lot of jostling for position and the elbows are well and truly out.
It is a drag race between Quick-Step and LottoNL-Jumbo as the flamme rouge comes forward.
Katusha found them out of place briefly and they're having to fight to get forward. They now move in front of LottoNL-Jumbo.
No sight of Cavindish in the front group
Viviani tries to get past him but he is boxed in. An Astana rider gomes up the other side of the road but it looks like Groenewegen has won.
That was a very messy sprint there and a lot of riders found themselves out of position.
An overhead replay and it is very tight between Groenewegen and Cort. The Dutchman is celebrating through so it seems that he was the one that took it.
Groenwegen has been declared the stage winner. That was a very close call. It looked like Cort had come past him in the finale, but Groenewegen had just enough in the lunge to take it from the Dane.
VIviani took third in that sprint, after getting stuck behind Groenewegen, while Kristoff finished fourth and Bouhanni was in fifth. Notably, Kittel and Cavendish are both missing from the top 10.
Mitchelton-BikeExchange's Jacob Hennessy put in a great effort to finish sixth, while Rally took sixth with Eric Young.
@katushacycling Tue, 6th Feb 2018 11:26:24
So, Katusha saying there that Kittel had a mechanical problem. Footage of the finish shows the German thumping his handlebars in frustration. His team did a lot of work today and he was unable to convert it.
Groenewegen has really made leaps forward in recent years with not just his sprinting speed but his positioning. That was a very intelligent ride from the 24-year-old, who won the Champs Elysees stage at last year's Tour de France.
Trek-Segafredo is another team that missed the top 10 today, with either of their sprinters. John Degekolb had this to day after the finish.
"It was a crazy final, and we couldn't stay together. In the end it, was just too crazy for all of us. This is the first race at this level, it's hard at the beginning of the season, and we just have to try again tomorrow. I had not the possibility to do the sprint really."
Confirmation on how things finished today.
1 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 03:51:35
2 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana Pro Team
3 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
5 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutins Credits
6 Jacob Hennessy (GBr) Mitchelton-BikeExchange
7 Eric Young (USA) Rally Cycling
8 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
9 Andrea Peron (Ita) Team Novo Nordisk
10 Loic Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing Team
Results, photos and a report are all being put together. You will be able to find all of that right here.
Groenewegen dives for the line.
Enric Mas is not in Dubai, but we got a chance to speak to him when he made his season debut at the Tour Down Under. The Spaniard is a growing talent and has the weight of expectation on his shoulders, particularly with the retirement of Alberto Contador. Read the full story here.
With his stage win, Groenewegen also becomes the race leader, the leader of the points classification and the leader of the youth classification.
Groenewegen has had several close calls at the Dubai Tour before taking his win today. He had this to say following his victory.
“It's great to win here because there are a lot of good sprinters. I came close every day last year but I didn't win," he said after the stage. "I came second twice and I'm glad to start this new season on the right foot, thanks to the good job by my team. Quick-Step made it a very hard sprint by setting a high speed from far out but I launched my sprint with 200m to go. It was very tight at the end but went in my favour. It feels good to win my first stage this year, especially with the high level of sprinters who are here.”
@AdamBlythe89 Tue, 6th Feb 2018 12:01:02
Magnus Cort was making his debut for Astana today, after leaving Orica-Scott last season. He came so close to the win today with that late surge up the left of the road. He had this to say after the finish.
"It was a very nice start for the season and my time at Astana. There is a very good peloton here. I’m very happy with second but, of course, when you’re so close to the win it is impossible not to be a little bit disappointed. I have to be happy, it’s an extremely good peloton here and I have to thank the boys."
Astana has confirmed that the riders that went down in that crash during the final kilometres are all ok, which is good to hear.
Daniel Teklehaimanot is the first leader of the intermediate sprints competition after his day in the breakaway.
Marcel Kittel said after the stage that he was sure he had a shot at victory today if he hadn't suffered a mechanical issue. He did not elaborate on what the issue was.
"It’s the most technical finish of the Dubai Tour today. I think that we did a really good job at the end to always be near the front and, in the end, Marco Haller brought me to the front. I was about to launch my sprint and then I had some technical problems. I’m really convinced that I had the chance to go for the victory today. I was in a good position and I felt good. Of course, I’m disappointed but we did a very good job today."
A full recount of today's action is in our race report, along with a whole load of pictures for your perusal. We're still waiting on full results from the organisers but we'll have them with you as soon as we can get our hands on them. You can find our report, here.
Dylan Groenewegen in the blue leader's jersey.
@eliaviviani Tue, 6th Feb 2018 12:54:16
That is it from us today. Don't forget to join us again tomorrow for stage two in what is expected to be another sprint finish for the peloton. Can Groenewegen make it two out of two or will someone else take the honours? You'll just have to join us to find out.
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