Soudal-Quickstep’s Belgian rider Tim Merlier won the first stage of cycling’s UAE Tour on Monday, pipping Lotto Dstny’s Caleb Ewan in a sprint finish. The two riders finished shoulder to shoulder prompting a 10-minute delay as the race organizers pored over the photo finish in a bid to split them. They opted against calling it a dead heat and gave Merlier, 30, the win by the slimmest of margins.
You tell us who won stage 1 of the #UAETour 😁 pic.twitter.com/8pjiP9w63I
— Soudal Quick-Step Pro Cycling Team (@soudalquickstep) February 20, 2023
“I was not sure,” Merlier said afterwards.
“I know I did a good jump in the end, and I knew when I started my sprint that it was a good sprint.
“But Caleb was coming from the wheel and you know he’s a dangerous guy if he is in the wheel. In the end it was really close.”
Astana Qazaqstan Team’s Mark Cavendish was third after a windy ride of 94 miles on the United Arab Emirates’ northern coast. It was a poor day for home side UAE Emirates as their team leader, the newly signed Adam Yates, had his chances of winning slip away in a cross wind. Instead Merlier’s team-mate and compatriot Remco Evenepoel is now hot favorite to win this Tour after his power led an attack that dropped the entire peloton with a 51 second gap.
A forlorn-looking Yates blamed the desert wind.
“We were actually the only guys in front which means we had to use a little bit more energy fighting for position and fighting the wind. In the end, we didn’t have the legs,” said Yates after other teams refused to join the bid to catch up.
Evenepoel is both world champion and Vuelta a Espana title holder and is sixth overall, thanks to 51 seconds plus a bonus after finishing eighth on the day.
That was a windy and good start of the week here in 🇦🇪🌈🌪️
Strong teamwork finished off by @MerlierTim! 🔥🐺 #TheWolfpack
Focus on tomorrow's TTT. 👊🏼
📷 @GettySport pic.twitter.com/zB6E3EaXUm
— Remco Evenepoel (@EvenepoelRemco) February 20, 2023
“That was a windy and good start of the week here,” said Evenepoel. “Strong teamwork finished off by @MerlierTim!
“Focus on tomorrow’s TTT,” he added before Tuesday’s second of seven stages, referring to the team time trial over 17.2km up the coast in Khalifa Port.
UAE Team Emirates’ double Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar is sitting out his outfit’s home event. The 24-year-old Slovenian chose instead to start his season by winning the Vuelta a Andalucia over the weekend.
2023 UAE TOUR STAGE 1 RESULTS
|1||MERLIER Tim||Soudal – Quick Step||3:17:35|
|2||EWAN Caleb||Lotto Dstny||0:00|
|3||CAVENDISH Mark||Astana Qazaqstan Team||0:00|
|5||ARNDT Nikias||Bahrain – Victorious||0:00|
|6||BAUHAUS Phil||Bahrain – Victorious||0:00|
|7||PLAPP Luke||INEOS Grenadiers||0:00|
|8||EVENEPOEL Remco||Soudal – Quick Step||0:00|
|9||BILBAO Pello||Bahrain – Victorious||0:00|
|10||BOL Cees||Astana Qazaqstan Team||0:00|
UAE TOUR OVERALL STANDINGS
|1||MERLIER Tim||Soudal – Quick Step||3:17:25|
|2||EWAN Caleb||Lotto Dstny||0:04|
|3||PLAPP Luke||INEOS Grenadiers||0:05|
|4||CAVENDISH Mark||Astana Qazaqstan Team||0:06|
|5||ARNDT Nikias||Bahrain – Victorious||0:07|
|6||EVENEPOEL Remco||Soudal – Quick Step||0:08|
|7||BILBAO Pello||Bahrain – Victorious||0:08|
|9||BAUHAUS Phil||Bahrain – Victorious||0:10|
|10||BOL Cees||Astana Qazaqstan Team||0:10|
RBA/AFP Photos: Sprint Cycling
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