Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen gets the better of sprint rivals on Dubai Tour stage one as defending champion Marcel Kittel suffers from mechanical issue

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) sprinted to win the opening stage of the 2018 Dubai Tour on Tuesday.

The Dutchman prevailed in the scrappy sprint to the line that saw several of the big-name sprinters out of position or boxed in.

Despite losing several of his team-mates in a late crash, Astana’s Magnus Cort Nielsen placed a close second behind Groenewegen, with Italian Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) getting caught with no room to manoeuvre next to the roadside barrier and having to settle for third.

Groenewegen takes the early overall lead in the five-day race.

Riders on the start line for the opening stage of the 2018 Dubai Tour. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

How it happened
The day’s break consisted of five riders: Mohammed Almansoori (United Arab Emirates), Andy Fenn (Aqua Blue), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Cofidis) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing).

Teklehaimanot was only signed by Cofidis in the week leading up to the Dubai Tour, and evidently did not want to waste any time in showing off his new colours.

The Eritrean and his four escape companions were only allowed to build up a lead of only a couple of minutes as the sprinters teams were keen to keep things on a tight leash.

With 45km to go, the time gap between peloton and break dipped below a minute with Marcel Kittel’s Katusha-Alpecin team driving the pace accompanied by Viviani’s Quick-Step Floors just behind.

>>> Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish headline strong 2018 Dubai Tour start list

Rather than make a premature catch, however, the peloton held the gap at around a minute for 15km and onto the winding roads in among the palm trees of the Jumeirah Islands.

Mark Cavendish meets fans before the stage start. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

With 23km to go, the peloton started to close the gap, clipping it to 30 seconds. Fenn decided to launch a last-ditch attempt to stay away, and was followed by Planet, with the duo’s gap edging back out to a minute.

As Fenn accelerated again up a short rise in the road just inside 18km-to-go, Planet shook his head and dropped back leaving the British rider out front solo.

Quick-Step Floors then took over at the front of the peloton and made in-roads into reducing Fenn’s advantage. As the other teams moved up to the front of the bunch, Fenn’s time out front came to an abrupt end inside 10km and the bunch all came back together.

A crash in the bunch with 8km to go took down a swathe of riders, including a number from Astana and a couple from Katusha-Alpecin.

Emerging from the long under-sea tunnel to the Palm Jumeirah island, Quick-Step Floors were back at the front of the peloton with 5km to go.

Many of the teams’ sprint trains then fell apart in the closing kilometre, with defending champion Kittel, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) among those missing out. Kittel’s team reported after the finish that he had suffered a mechanical issue just as he was opening up his finishing effort.

>>> Dubai Tour 2018: Everything you need to know

One noteworthy result was 21-year-old British rider Jacob Hennessy, finishing an impressive sixth for Mitchelton-Scott.

Groenewegen commented after the win: “Quick-Step made it a very hard sprint by setting a high speed from far out but I launched my sprint with 200m to go. It was very tight at the end but went in my favour.

“It feels good to win my first stage this year, especially with the high level of sprinters who are here.”

The five-stage 2018 Dubai Tour continues on Wednesday with stage two, starting from Skydive Dubai and finishing in Ras Al Khaimah after 190 flat kilometres. It should be another day for the sprinters.

The race concludes on Saturday, February 10.

Dylan Groenewegen celebrates taking the overall lead in the Dubai Tour 2018 (Foto LaPresse – Fabio Ferrari)

Result

Dubai Tour 2018, stage one: Skydive Dubai to Palm Jumeirah, 167km
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 3-52-35
2. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
5. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
6. Jacob Hennessy (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
7. Eric Young (USA) Rally Cycling
8. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
9. Andrea Peron (Ita) Novo Nordisk
10. Loïc Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing, all same time

General classification after stage one
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo