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UAE Tour stage 1 - Live coverage

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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!

170km

We have a front group of 15 or so riders.

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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.

Echelons!

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Chris Froome confirms use of disc brakes in 2021 despite doubts of technology

Israel Start Up Nation

(Image credit: Israel Start Up Nation)

The wind is blowing sand across the road but the riders have eased the pace for now.

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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!

The wind blew hard at the UAE Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's hard at the back.

Caleb Ewan is one of the riders caught behind this time.

The wind blew hard on stage 1 of the UAE Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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. 

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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.

Mathieu van der Poel made his 2021 road racing debut at the UAE Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Adam Yates takes a large musette and loads his pockets. 

Other riders are feeding from team cars.

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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.  

It was hard at the back at the UAE Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are 26 riders in the front echelon. 

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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.

Tadej Pogacar made the front echelon on stage 1 of the UAE Tour

(Image credit: Bettini Images)

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.

The desert winds at the UAE Tour blew sand across the road

(Image credit: Bettini Images)

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. 

Chris Froome confirms use of disc brakes in 2021 despite doubts of technology

Chris Froome on the podium at the UAE Tour

(Image credit: Bettini Images)
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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.

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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.

UAE Tour stage 1

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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. 

Another attack! 

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?

Last km! 

All together. 

sprint!

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.

UAE Tour stage 1

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is the top 3 for the stage

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix 3:45:47
2Daivd Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
3Michael 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.  

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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.

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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.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is the top ten for the stage.

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix 3:45:47
2David Dekker (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
3Michael Morkov (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
4Emils Liepins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
5Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
6Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
7Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8Chris Harper (Aus) Jumbo-Visma 0:00:03
9Joao Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep
10Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep

That was a hectic and hard day in the saddle. 

UAE Tour stage 1

(Image credit: Getty Images)

These are the four jersey wearers after stage 1.

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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." 

UAE Tour

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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." 

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To read our full stage report, including reaction from Mathieu van der Poel, a huge photo gallery and results, click below.

UAE Tour: Mathieu van der Poel wins stage 1

ABU DHABI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES FEBRUARY 21 Podium Mathieu van der Poel of The Netherlands and Team AlpecinFenix Red Leader Jersey Celebration during the 3rd UAE Tour 2021 Stage 1 a 176km stage from Al Dhafra Castle to Al Mirfa Trophy Mask Covid Safety Measures UAETour on February 21 2021 in Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

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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