Alexander Kristoff has won stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour for UAE-Team Emirates while Kiwis Patrick Bevin of BMC Racing and Alex Frame of Trek-Segafredo both got their campaigns off to a solid start with top 20 finishes in the bunch sprint.
The pancake flat opener of this year’s Abu Dhabi Tour from Madinat Zaya to Adno School was 189km in length but for Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data the race was over before it ever really began. A crash in the neutral zone, caused by the lead car breaking unexpectedly, saw a number of riders hit the deck including Cavendish. The Manx missile remounted but concussion and neck pain forced him to abandon.
A breakaway group containing Charles Planet of Team Novo Nordisk, Tom Skujins of Trek-Segafredo, Nikolay Trusov of Gazprom-Rusvelo, Vincenzo Albanese of Bardiani CSF and Damiano Caruso of BMC Racing went up the road but were unable to really put the peloton under any real pressure, with the sprinters determined to have their day.
After the numbers in the breakaway dwindled down eventually only Caruso was left and he was swept up with 13km remaining ready for the big bunch finish.
The sprint itself was a frantic one, with riders all over the road. Quick-Step Floors were on the left hand side of the road working for Elia Viviani, and Alex Frame of Trek-Segafredo was poised and ready to strike on their wheels, but on the opposite side of the road was Caleb Ewan of Mitchelton-Scott, Andrea Guardini of Bardiani-CSF, and – about 16 riders back on the right – Alexander Kristoff in the European champion’s jersey.
While the sprint unfolded beside him, courtesy of a big turn of pace from Caleb Ewan, Frame found himself out of position and unable to launch in the sprint; having to settle for 20th place with Patrick Bevin 18th. At the head of the race though Ewan’s sprint was undone only by a massive push from the Norwegian Kristoff, with Guardini also charging through to take second place. Viviani finished fourth with Daniel McLay of EF Eduation First-Drapac p/b Cannondale completing the top five.
After the stage Alex Frame said, “I just got boxed and we all had to slam on the brakes on the left and they shot through on the right. The team did an awesome job. We couldn’t have put ourselves in a better position for the end; we just had a bit of bad luck.”
Jack Bauer of Mitchelton-Scott was also in the action during stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour, finishing in the bunch after supporting teammate Ewan to third on the stage.