Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 1 of the UAE Tour.
As the Cyclingnews virtual blimp takes height, the attacks in the crosswinds have already started.
The opening stage is 176km long and starts in the desert before heading to the coast.
The wind is blowing across the desert and is a cross wind on an opening section.
That has sparked attacks and echelons!
We have a front group of 15 or so riders.
We (just) said it was windy...We are less than a kilometer in the race and the first echelons have been formed in the #uaetour! 💨💨💨Once we know more about the compositions of the groups, we will let you know!#yallaisn pic.twitter.com/2SaCUkJd0WFebruary 21, 2021
As the riders ride towards Zayed city, the win d is blowing from their right.
The front group lead by 10 seconds or so but are working well together.
#UAETour, Stage 1. 170 km to go.😍 pic.twitter.com/eXURJgor1JFebruary 21, 2021
Behind the chase peloton, other groups are scattered down the road in different echelons.
Ineos sparked the first echelon and had Adam Yates in there. They have now been joined by the chase peloton but riders are being spat out the back and a group is at 45 seconds and losing further time.
Much of the Movistar team is in the chase group, as is Sep Kuss of Jumbo-Visma.
Sergio Higuita of EF is also in the chase group and is suffering in the wind.
Upfront the Deceuninck, Ineos and Bahrain teams are setting a high pace to stop the chasers closing the gap.
A slight change of direction means the wind is cross-tail. However when the race turns right in Zayed City, it will become a cross-head wind again.
Get ready for more echelons!
The pace has eased at the front and so the chase groups desperately try to close the gap.
Valverde is in the chase group.
#UAETour Musste wollen. pic.twitter.com/sLAI3iJsxTFebruary 21, 2021
150km to go
The riders pass a sign saying: Fasten your seatbelts. After the high-speed echelon start, it's excellent advice.
And breath. The main chase group has caught the front group entering Zayed City.
However a few chasers are at over a minute. They face a hard chase in the cars and can only hope the stage clams down. If it doesn't they could lose a lot of time.
Jumbo-Visma have moved up to the front with Kuss. He got out of jail due to a change in direction that slowed the echelons and allowed the chasers to close the gap.
Just a little under 150km to go and things calming down after the crosswind-enforced chaos of the start! Great racing for the spectator #UAETour pic.twitter.com/oVFT2eVRbbFebruary 21, 2021
🇦🇪 #UAETourthe main bunch regrouped after a furious start. pic.twitter.com/ep427HwsEiFebruary 21, 2021
It's 26C in the UAE and so after a fast opening 35km, several riders are dropping back to the team cars to take on bidons. They need to be quick before the winds return on the exposed desert roads.
The speed is up to 55km/h and with the wind blowing, it is difficult for riders to stuff bidons down their jerseys to take up to their teammates.
The peloton easing has allowed all the chasers to get back on. The echelon attacks have eased for now.
Higuita has wisely moved up near the front and other riders are doing the same to be ready for other attacks when the race turns north and returns to exposed roads.
Meanwhile, Mathieu van der Poel is at the back chatting with Thomas De Gendt.
130km to go
Ineos are back on the front. They kicked off the earlier echelon attacks. Will they do it again?
Puncture for Dani Martinez. He gets help from a teammate and the team car and is chasing to get back on.
He is in the team cars now. The pace is steady and so he should get back on.
The riders have now left Zayed City and are back in the exposed desert.
But there seems little desire to attack for now.
120km to go
The riders are all together, tucked into the wheels.
They can feel the wind blowing from their right but it is not strong enough to spark echelons at the moment.
Chris Froome is safely in the peloton on his disc brake bike. As you may have seen, he again talked about his concerns of the technology on Saturday.
Click below to read what he said.
The wind is blowing sand across the road but the riders have eased the pace for now.
#UAETour - Calm group heading towards the Habshan Camp intermediate sprint with head/cross wind.Great exposure for all teams as they're all in the breakaway. #LFRlive pic.twitter.com/UpltfanKmHFebruary 21, 2021
Here we go again! Cross winds!
After a brief pause, Deceuninck have returned to the front to lead out the intermediate sprint and up the pace.
The pace remains high.
And the echelons are back!
It's hard at the back.
Caleb Ewan is one of the riders caught behind this time.
Adam Yates is in the front echelon. As is Mathieu van der Poel.
We can see four clearly formed echelon spread down on the road.
With the wind blowing from the rider's right, there is nowhere to hid but in an echelon.
The gaps between the echelons are opening. Group 2 is at 30 seconds, the third echelon is 1:10 behind.
A touch of wheels see two riders go down.
The wind roads allow 20+ riders to join each echelon.
We can see Pogacar in the second echelon at the moment.
This is the bird's eye view of the echelons.
🇦🇪#UAETourIt was just the calm before the storm as the peloton has split into four groups once again. @dekkerdavid and @chrisharper94 have made the front split for us. pic.twitter.com/9u4ufvVh4aFebruary 21, 2021
Caleb Ewan does not seem too concerned to be in the second echelon. He and Lotto are perhaps confident the race will comeback together near the coast as the circuits changes direction.
Gaviria and Viviani are the amongst the sprinters in the first echelon.
Echelon 2 and 3 have come together but they are 1:00 behind the front group.
The riders face 23km on this road into the cross winds before turning left and feeling the benefit of a tail wind for a while.
Some sand dunes help protect the riders but the speed remains close to 40km/h into the wind. This is hurting.
Tadej Pogacar is in the front echelon with several UAE teammates to help and protect him.
The second echelon is losing time and is at 1:25 now.
The riders are tucked low over their bikes as they take turns in the echelons.
As like every pace line, the riders move up on the protected side of the echelon, do their brief turn on the front and then slip back with the wind on their right side.
Everyone stays tucked on a wheel to gain as much protection and slipstream as possible.
The worst place to be is at the back and exposed to the cross winds.
The paces eases slightly as the echelon passes through a feed zone. It's 26C out there and so riders need fresh bidons and food.
Adam Yates takes a large musette and loads his pockets.
Other riders are feeding from team cars.
.@AdamYates7 has shown why he's the defending champ at #UAETour. He's up there in the first group - which holds a gap of 1:28" pic.twitter.com/5GwDEpQNN0February 21, 2021
After a slight change in direction, the wind is more of a head wind now.
However the front group is still working hard and so is still 1:30 ahead of the peloton.
It's a hard first day in the saddle.
There are 26 riders in the front echelon.
The wind is back to playing an important part in this race. We're over halfway (85km to go) and a group of 26 riders are more than 90 seconds ahead of the peloton pic.twitter.com/mzd1txMYiuFebruary 21, 2021
The overall contenders up front are Yates, Pogacar, Caruos of Bahrain and Almeida.
Gaviria is up front, proving that his memories of last year's race and his fight against COVID-19 are in the past.
75km to go
Several teams are working behind in pursuit of the front echelon. These include Lotto for Ewan, Bora for Ackermann and others.
It is interesting to note that several of the big-name sprinters are not in the front echelon.
It is unclear at this point if that is by choice or by process.
The race has turned left and onto a main highway and so the riders are enjoying a tailwinds until 60km to go.
They will turn right and head to the coast soon and perhaps ride into the headwinds again.
After 110km of racing the average speed is 45.6km/h. Considering the crosswinds and echelons, that is a high pace.
The highway is four lanes wide and so the echelon is spread across the roads.
The chaser group is splitting under the effort of their pursuit, with several splits and smaller groups.
There are three chase groups. One big-name rider down the back is Chris Froome.
Interestingly Adam Yates is the only rider in the front echelon. Hence why he had to take his own musette from the team car.
Ineos kicked-off the attacks in the wind at the start but then failed to be there with Yates when the peloton split a second time.
55km to go
The gap to the front echelon has dropped to 1:25. It will fascinating to see if they can stay away.
Interestingly Deceuninck have several riders in the front group, including their lead out train but Sam Bennett is in the chase group.
Deceuninck rode for Almeida in the intermediate sprint and so he picked up 3 precious bonus seconds that could be important in the GC battle.
The riders have turned right and are riding along the coast now. The wins is coming from their left and so the echelon is lined out to the right.
50km to go
The race will enter the finishing circuit in 10km.
The road is narrower now and so the front echelon could split.
Pogacar is in the front echelon. He could gain time on some of his overall rivals today but his biggest rival Adam Yates is also up there.
The second group is riding 'half road', forcing a large part of the riders into the gutter and exposed in the wind.
That will split the group.
The chase has split with Ackermann and his Bora teammates trying to close the gap to the front echelon.
Alpecin-Fenix are also riding for Jasper Philipsen.
39km to go
The riders enter the Al Mirfa finishing circuit up ands down the coast road.
They face two laps of 18.8km with a number of roundabouts and changes in direction.
The riders contest the intermediate sprint on the finish line.
Almeida and Pogacar fight it out.
Almeida won it and took another 3 seconds. His Deceuninck teammate Cattaneo was second and Pogacar was third, picking up a second.
Almeida has earned six bonus seconds today for little work.
Behind the chase group seems to have eased up. They are at 2:20 now, with the Froome group even further behind.
Chris Froome did warn he was not a GC contender. He again spoke abut disc brakes on Saturday.
Click below to read that story.
🇦🇪 #UAETour With the gap over 2'00" now to the @Giacomonizzolo chase group... its looking likely the stage will be taken by the front group of 24 riders. 31km to go. pic.twitter.com/hMc27vKnj4February 21, 2021
The peloton has come back together as they realise the attack will not be pulled back.
There will be some interesting post-race debriefing in certain teams tonight.
Several will likely see their best GC hope lose time on stage 1, while several sprinters have also missed out.
There will be questions asked and rewriting of strategies.
25km to go
With the chasers easing up, the finale of the race is all about the 25 riders left up front.
Will to be a sprint and so favour Gaviria, Viviani or even van der Poel?
Or will there be late attacks?
It'll be interesting to see what Deceuninck do in the absence of Bennett. will they ride for Morkov or will he stay in his lead out role and help Cattaneo?
20km to go
The front group's lead is up to 3:30 as the riders return to the finish area for a final lap of 18.8km.
The bell rings out for the 25 attackers as Viviani and the other sprinters study the finish and final curves.
Ben Hermans of Israel Start-Up Nation is chasing alone from the peloton. He was tipped to go for GC but missed the move and is going to lose a chunk of time.
Bora know how the day will end.
🇦🇪 #UAETourwith just over 20km remaining the gap is over 3‘ now. the winner will be one of the leading group today. pic.twitter.com/zD7o9qRsfRFebruary 21, 2021
10km to go
The pace has eased in the front group as the riders try to rest up and focus their minds on the finale.
Riders are studying each other and thinking of their best tactic.
Here we go!
First attack from Masnada of Deceuninck.
He is joined by Powless of EF and riders from Cofidis and Alpecin as they protect their sprinters chances.
7km to go
The attack is caught but surely another will come soon.
Deceuninck light it up again but Gaviria joins them so his teammates do not have to chase.
Viviani also does the same but the move is caught.
Now Cattaneo goes off the front.
This sprint could be a battle between Fernando Gaviria and Mathieu van der Poel.
Cattaneo is still out front but Pogacar tries to close the gap to help Gaviria.
This is a tense, tactical finish.
3km to go
The Italian leads by 15 seconds. Can he hang on and win alone?
UAE pick up the chase for Gaviria but it could be too late.
Powless starts a solo chase.
Deceuninck are trying to block the chase to help Cattaneo.
2km to go
Alpecin and UAE are trying to close down Cattaneo.
Gaviria goes solo and passes Cattaneo at speed.
He goes into an aero tuck with Cattaneo on his wheel.
Will anyone chase then down?
Archbold leads out.
Van de Poel!!!
Mathieu van der Poel was perfectly placed and had the speed to win. Wow!
MvdP was on Viviani's wheel but blasted past him when he opened up his sprint.
Van der Poel hugs a teammate and celebrates what is a hugely impressive and significant win.
David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma) was second and Michael Morkov (Deceuninck) third.
Thanks to his stage win van der Poel is also the first race leader and so will pull on the first leader's red jersey.
This is the top 3 for the stage
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix||3:45:47|
|2||Daivd Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|3||Michael Morkov (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
Van der Poel said his cyclo-cross form helped him win today.
"I think this is cyclo-cross shape in the desert," he joked.
Your @AdnocGroup Stage One Winner #UAETour pic.twitter.com/uY04inBq1JFebruary 21, 2021
The peloton, with a number of big-name sprinters and GC contenders finishes over eight minutes behind van der Poel.
What was supposed to be a sprint stage, was turned upside down by cross winds and echelons.
Interestingly only Tadej Pogacar, Adam Yates and Damiano Caruso avoided losing time on the GC today.
Everyone else was in the peloton and so lost virtually any hope of overall victory.
This is how van der Poel won the sprint.
UAE Tour 2021 - Stage 1 - Finish line pic.twitter.com/iRkyYqj2R6February 21, 2021
Van der Poel climbs onto the podium to take the stage winner honours.
Van der Poel pulls on several jerseys after his stage win.
He will wear the red leader's jersey during Monday's 13km time trial. He should have an excellent chance of holding the race lead.
Here's the first image of van der Poel winning stage 1 of the UAE Tour.
This is the top ten for the stage.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix||3:45:47|
|2||David Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|3||Michael Morkov (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|4||Emils Liepins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo|
|5||Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis|
|6||Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates|
|7||Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|8||Chris Harper (Aus) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:03|
|9||Joao Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|10||Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
That was a hectic and hard day in the saddle.
These are the four jersey wearers after stage 1.
Your four celebrated riders after Stage One:@mathieuvdpoel in Red leads the General Classification@mathieuvdpoel in Green leads the Points Classification@dekkerdavid in White is your Best Young Rider@JooAlmeida98 in Black leads the way for Intermediate Sprint Classification pic.twitter.com/1VpITMJT5SFebruary 21, 2021
Van der Poel had played down his chances in Saturday's pre-race press conference and seemed surprised to win.
"I'm happy to begin this way, it means a lot for sure. I didn’t except this," he said.
"I rested after the cyclo-cross worlds and trained for a week with the team. I think this is cyclo-cross shape in the desert."
Van der Poel was able to use his cyclo-cross form to survive in the echelon attacks.
“Today was very windy and a very hard race," he explained.
"I had good legs from beginning after at the intermediate sprint a got into the big group went away. I knew I could finish it off in the sprint but didn’t expect to win it all. I knew my sprint gets better and better when it is hard and that I had to be in the right position."
"It’s real nice to start my road season with win."
Some stats further to the @uae_tour stage 1:👕 @mathieuvdpoel will wear a race leader jersey for the 1st time at WorldTour level🔝 @Emils_Liepins had his best result ever in a WorldTour race (4th)🔝 @anthonyroux18 had his best result in a WT race (7th) since 2018#UAETour pic.twitter.com/DPioSXSVwnFebruary 21, 2021
To read our full stage report, including reaction from Mathieu van der Poel, a huge photo gallery and results, click below.
Thanks for joining our full live coverage. We'll be back on Monday for full live coverage of the 13km TT.
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