Philipsen takes opening stage of UAE Tour in thrilling sprint finish

Belgian goes into the second sprint stage in leader's red jersey

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Jasper Philipsen made a perfect start in the year’s WorldTour opener, edging out Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett and Elia Viviani of Ineos Grenadiers in a photo finish to take the opening stage of the UAE Tour at Madinat Zayed on Sunday.

With that result, the Alpecin-Fenix rider showed the race’s stacked field of sprinters that he would be the man to beat this season.

Having claimed the opening stage, the will wear the red jersey on Monday’s second sprint stage over the 176-kilometre distance from Hudayriyat Island to Abu Dhabi Breakwater.

“It was a pretty fast finish,” said Philipsen after his win. “The last straight was more than 50 kilometres, so we could see the finish from very far out!

“The team did a really good job at staying calm. We had time and space to move, and then we made our way to the front.”

The closing dash to the finish line saw Philipsen manage to nudge Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) off the wheel of UAE Team Emirates' Pascal Ackermann, and he was able to follow and then go past the German once he kicked off the sprint.

Asked how confident he was that he would win, the Philipsen replied: “Not confident at all. It was the first race of the season, so you don't know how your shape is and how it compares with the other teams.

Stage result

1. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:42:34

2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe

3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers

4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco

5. Emils Liepins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo

6. Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ

7. Max Kanter (Ger) Movistar Team

8. Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma

9. Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux

10. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) UAE Team Emirate

“I'm really looking forward to moving on and trying to repeat the same as we did today. It won't work out always, but it's good to win immediately and put the pressure off.”

The Belgian’s win was impressive given the calibre of sprinters he beat. Not only did he outpace Bennett, Viviani, and Dylan Groenewegen in the drag race to the line, he also left behind the likes of Cavendish, Ackermann, and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ).

“If you see the start list with all the sprinters, I think it's almost the top field of sprinters in the first WorldTour race of the year,” Philipsen said.

“So I think we can be really proud of what we did, and just keep on going in the next days.”

Groenewegen looked like he might challenge him from the inside lane, but could not find a gap between Philipsen and the barriers.

With that threat to his right out of contention, Philipsen only had to worry about Bennett and Viviani to his left. But despite being able to open their sprints a little later, the Belgian had the endurance to stay ahead of them and take the win.

“This victory makes this a really great start to the season,” Philipsen said at the post-race conference.

“Everything went perfectly. We had a tailwind at the end. When it’s a headwind, you can gamble and come later, but today we knew the speed was high.

“I’m happy we could find a gap, so I could sprint as I wanted. To be first on the line was a great feeling. I started my career with UAE Team Emirates but I couldn’t race here until I changed team in order to focus more on sprinting and riding the classics.

“It’s a great race here with a very high level of sprinters. It’s important to start the season well in the UAE.”

Updated: February 20, 2022, 4:34 PM
Stage result

1. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:42:34

2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe

3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers

4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco

5. Emils Liepins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo

6. Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ

7. Max Kanter (Ger) Movistar Team

8. Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma

9. Tom Devriendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux

10. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) UAE Team Emirate

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