Kristoff’s UAE Team Emirates team were nowhere to be seen through the closing kilometres, largely leaving Kristoff to his own devices as LottoNL-Jumbo, Quick-Step Floors, and Katusha-Alpecin all attempted to take control.
However it was Mitchelton-Scott who led put Caleb Ewan into a good position with 300m, the young Australian crouching low over his bike to open the sprint.
But Ewan seemed to fade as the line approached, leaving Kristoff to surge past on the left, taking his second victory of the year as Ewan was edged out of second by Andrea Guardini.
How it happened
The opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour saw action before the flag had even dropped, with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) crashing in the neutral zone and falling on the shoulder that he broke at the 2017 Tour de France.
Cavendish remounted his bike, but was clearly in pain as he abandoned and climbed into the team car just five kilometres after the official start of the race. Dimension Data later announced that he had suffered concussion and whiplash in the crash, with race organisers blaming the crash on automatic sensors on an official car, causing it to brake which led to a ripple effect through the bunch.
With Cavendish out of the race, a five rider break formed early on, consisting of Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing), Charles Planet (Novo-Nordisk), Vincenze Albanese (Bardiani CSF), and Nikolay Trusov (Gazprom-Rusvelo).
That fivesome enjoyed a maximum lead of around three minutes on the 189km stage which was largely run along an out-and-back route through desert scenery.
With 160km of the route being run on straight roads, the break was almost constantly within sight of the peloton making the chase easy to judge as a number of teams shared the work on the front of the peloton.
One by one the breakaway riders dropped away, with Skujins the first to drops back to the peloton, followed by Albanese and Trusov after Caruso attacked with Planet with 27km remaining.
Caruso did the lion’s share of the work with Planet sitting in his wheel, before losing patience with his breakaway companion and going solo with 20km to go, still enjoying a lead of around 1-20.
However with the pace going up in the peloton, that gap quickly dropped and Caruso was caught with 13.5km remaining, leaving it up to the sprinters’ teams to control the race on the run towards the line.
The real action kicked off with around five kilometres remaining as the lead-out trains began to form with Katusha-Alpecin lined out on the right-hand soide of the road battling for dominance with LottoNL-Jumbo and Quick-Step Floors on the left.
A surge in speed from LottoNL-Jumbo saw them win that battle as the race was lined out with 2.5km to go as Katusha were forced back into the centre of the bunch to regroup.
However Lotto seemed to have gone too hard too early, leaving Quick-Step and Mitchelton-Scott to set the pace under the flamme rouge.
The Australian team proved the strongest, putting Ewan into a strong position to sprint for the line. But it was Kristoff who proved the stronger, emerging from the wheels to surge past Ewan, who was also edged out of second place by Andrea Guardini.
Abu Dhabi Tour 2018, Madinat Zayed to Madinat Zayed, 189km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-48-24
2. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
5. Daniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac
6. Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7. Michael Bresciani (Ita) Bardiani CSF
8. Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. Rudy Barbier (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
10. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, in 4-48-14
2. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Bardiani CSF, at 4 secs 0:00:04
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 6 secs 0:00:06
4. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo
5. Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Bardiani CSF, at same time
6. Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo, at 7 secs
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team, at 9 secs
8. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, at 10 secs
9. Daniel McLay (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac
10. Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at same time