Caleb Ewan won the stage seven bunch sprint to ensure he didn't leave the UAE Tour without a victory.
The Lotto-Soudal rider tacked on to Sam Bennett's (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) wheel into the slight headwind at Abu Dhabi Breakwater to deny the Irishman a third stage win in the Middle East, with Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) finishing third.
André Greipel managed sixth place, having been delivered to the front by Israel Start-Up Nation and opening his sprint early, the 38-year-old reminding everyone of his pedigree, while Cees Bol was only able to manage one place better, having received a competent lead out from Team DSM.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was untroubled as he secured the overall victory, 35 seconds ahead of Adam Yates, the Ineos Grenadier suffering a nasty fall in the final 45km and requiring medical attention, but able to make it to the finish.
"I don't know if it helped, we came here to win a stage and there was only one more left," Ewan said after the finish. "There was a bit of pressure to have a good result. I haven't been this far into the year without a win in my whole career, so it felt good."
How it happened
A flat stage to sign off the opening WorldTour race of the calendar, and despite Tadej Pogačar being docked time for a push in the finale of stage six, his 35 second lead over Adam Yates looked insurmountable barring any disasters.
The first bit of action of the day involved David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma) scooping up the solitary bonus point left behind at the intermediate sprint by the three breakaway riders with 100km remaining, the trio up front consisting of Samuele Battistella, Matteo Sorbero (both Astana - Premier Tech) and Alexys Brunel (Groupama-FDJ). The Dutchman extending his lead over Pogačar in the points classification at his debut WorldTour race.
40km later and Ineos Grenadiers hit the front to try and put the squeeze on Pogačar, the peloton cracking apart in the desert winds. The move failed to dislodge the Slovenian, or Caleb Ewan and Sam Bennett, both in the hunt for the stage victory, but third-place João Almeida and Dekker were caught out. These accelerations swept up the breakaway and the bunch also soon came back together.
The only notable GC drama of the day was when Yates hit the deck with 40km remaining, an innocuous-looking crash as a couple of Ineos Grenadiers lost balance and collided with their new team-mate, sending him face-first into the tarmac.
Bloodied, Yates got back up and after medical attention from both his support staff and the medic's car, he was fine to continue, the peloton waiting up for the Brit.
This incident knocked both the pace and intent out of the bunch for a while, however, and Ineos Grenadiers hit the front inside the final 10km to shepherd Yates safely inside the last 3km to guarantee his runner-up spot in this first race for his new team.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step duly took over at the front, looking to guide Sam Bennett to what would be an impressive third sprint win in the UAE. As the sprint trains jostled for position, Caleb Ewan was delivered to the front by Lotto-Soudal, only for the wave of sprinters to come back over the top. The Australian then got himself onto Bennett's wheel as the Irishman surged past, guided as ever by Michael Mørkøv, before then finally getting the better of his Monaco neighbour, sailing past him into the slight headwind and pumping his fist in celebration, the relief of opening his account for 2021 plain to see.
UAE Tour, stage seven: Yas Mall to Abu Dhabi Breakwater (147km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, in 3-18-29
2. Sam Bennett (Ire) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at same time
3. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
4. Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
5. Cees Bol (Ned) DSM
6. André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
7. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) AG2R Citroën
8. Luka Mezgec (Slo) BikeExchange
9. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
10. Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz) Astana - Premier Tech, all at same time
Final general classification
1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 24-00-28
2. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 35 seconds
3. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 1-02
4. Chris Harper (Aus) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-42
5. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-Nippo, at 1-45
6. Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-37
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 2-39
8. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 3-53
9. Rubén Fernández (Esp) Cofidis, at 4-13
10. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 6-30
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
B&B Hotels, the team that was set to sign Mark Cavendish, collapses
Multiple riders left scrambling to find places on alternative teams after demise of French ProTeam confirmed
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Report suggests US cyclo-cross nationals will be targeted by anti-trans protests
USA Cycling say that all fans will have to abide by their code of conduct
By Adam Becket • Published
Caleb Ewan ‘not going anywhere’ after team's relegation, says Lotto-Soudal
Spokesperson for Belgian team says that Ewan has expressed desire to stay and lead the team in 2023
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Caleb Ewan 'heartbroken' to miss out as Australia announce Worlds squad
The Lotto-Soudal sprinter believed he deserved to be in the team.
By Tom Davidson • Published