It’s not often you see on-bike footage recorded from one of the leading contenders in a race, so Tom Boonen‘s recording from the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour on Thursday gives a unique insight into the hectic nature of a bunch sprint.
Belgian former world champion Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) placed second on the stage behind winner Andrea Guardini (Astana) as he was engaged in a battle to the line with Tinkoff-Saxo’s Daniele Bennati, who enjoyed a lead-out from world champion Peter Sagan.
Although – as you can clearly see – Guardini was several bike lengths ahead, Boonen lunged his machine forward to pip Bennati on the line and claim second.
Earlier in the day, race organisers had taken the decision to shorten the stage due to the hot conditions, where temperatures hovered around 45°C all day.
The pace of the stage was taken slowly as riders struggled to take on enough drinks, and the sprint was in danger of being run after dark if the stage wasn’t shortened.
Highlights of the stage edited together by WorldTour team organisation Velon, show riders swapping drinks between teams as the peloton collectively attempts to keep dehydration at bay.
The extreme heat has caused several riders to complain about the conditions, with Boonen saying “You can ride in these conditions but you can’t race. The guys in the front just fell back one by one”.
The inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour continues on Friday with stage two, from the Yas Marina racing circuit to Yas Mall over 129km. Another bunch sprint is predicted. The four-stage race concludes on Sunday, October 11.