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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

Mathieu van der Poel breezes to victory in opening stage of UAE Tour

UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar takes sixth spot in bunch finish

Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Fenix braved strong winds to take the opening stage of the UAE Tour in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

The Dutchman completed the 176-kilometre stage in three hours, 45 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of compatriot David Dekker of Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Danish rider Michael Morkov.

“Today was very windy and a very hard race,” Van de Poel said.

“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.”

The UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar took sixth spot in the bunch finish behind Latvian Emils Liepins of Trek-Segafredo and Italian Elia Viviani of Confidis.

With that effort in the first of the seven stages, Pogacar remains one of the early contenders in the battle for the General Classification alongside Deceuninc-QuickStep’s Portuguese rider Joao Almeida and defending champion Adam Yates of Ineos Grenadiers.

The peloton, with a number of big-name sprinters and GC contenders, finished over eight minutes behind stage winner Van der Poel meaning Pogacar picked up valuable time ahead of his challengers and emerged as one of three early favourites for the GC.

That appears to have impacted the GC ambitions of several pre-race favourites, including Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Victorious), and the Ineos Grenadiers duo Ivan Sosa and Daniel Martinez.

“It was a really hard stage with the wind, but in the end our team did a super good job with four guys in the front group,” Pogacar said.

“Sadly, we missed the stage win, but I think we showed that we are strong and up for the fight. We were there at the front and we’ve set ourselves up well for the next few days.

The riders head to the Stage 2 on Monday for the individual time trial over the 13-kilometre circuit at Al Hudayriat Island.

Updated: February 21, 2021 07:28 PM

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