Dylan Groenewegen of LottoNL-Jumbo won the first stage of the 2018 Dubai Tour after edging out Magnus Cort Nielsen of Astana and Quick-Step Floors rider Elia Viviani in a thrilling finish on Tuesday.
The first three crossed the finishing line well ahead of the chasing pack, led by Alexander Kristoff on his debut for UAE Team Emirates, followed by Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis and Mitchelton’s Jacob Hennessy.
Two-time Dubai Tour winner Marcel Kittel was within striking distance but a mechanical problem for the Katusha-Alpecin rider around 300 metres put paid to his chances.
“It was really hard to win,” said Groenewegen after completing the 167-kilometre Nakheel Stage starting from Skydive Dubai and finishing in front of the Atlantis Hotel at Palm Jumeirah.
“There was a crash and we moved at the right time. Amund Grondahl Jansen and Timo Roosen were my lead out men; they delivered me with perfect timing.
“It was close with Magnus but I beat him. It feels great because the best sprinters are here.
“Last year I got my first win in Yorkshire at the end of April. It brings a completely different feeling to win my very first race of the year. The last stage of the Tour de France remains my biggest win but it's cool that I can beat the best.”
The Dutchman collected three distinctive jerseys that have the same colours as his country's national flag: blue, for general individual classification for points, red (general classification by time) and white (Best Young Rider born after 1 January 1993).
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Kristoff, the reigning European champion, said he was satisfied with his first ride in the colour of UAE Team Emirates.
“I'm happy to have the support of the team,” said the Norwegian. “It was a pretty chaotic sprint finish because the race was easy for the majority of the course and it's always more difficult in the final kilometres when everybody’s fresh.
“My teammates led me out well and I managed to avoid the crash, but unfortunately, I had to break in the final 100 meters, when I was focused on pushing forward.”
The crash occurred around 8km from the finish bringing down several riders including the Emirati Yousif Mirza.
“It's a pity that the Dubai Tour began with a little bit of bad luck for me,” he said. “I was trying to give my support to the team in order to help Kristoff approach the sprint in the best possible position, but the riders in front of me crashed and I could not avoid them.”
Daniel Teklehaimanot of Confids will wear the UAE Flag jersey for the Intermediate Sprint Jersey Classification.
“I'm lucky that Cofidis gave me the opportunity to race so quickly at the Dubai Tour, so I was very motivated for breaking away as early as today on Stage 1,” said the Eritrean.
“It was hard to make the right move. I'm glad I did. I wanted to thank my new teammates with the jersey of the intermediate sprints. It's a big boost for my morale.”
The second stage starts from SkyDive Dubai again and will head along the 190km route to Ras Al Khaimah. The peloton will pass through Sharjah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain before crossing the finish line at Al Qawasim Corniche in another sprint finish.
Results from the first stage of the Dubai Tour:
1. Dylan Groenewegen (NED/TLJ), 3hr 51min 25sec,
2. Magnus Cort Nielsen (DAN/AST) s.t.,
3. Elia Viviani (ITA/QST) s.t.,
4. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/UAD) s.t.,
5. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/CDF) s.t.
1. Dylan Groenewegen (NED/TLJ) 3hr 51min 25sec.
2. Magnus Cort Nielsen (DAN/AST) at 0:04,
3. Elia Viviani (ITA/QST) 0:06,
4. Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL/BMC) 0:07,
5. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/UAD) 0:10.