Leader: Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
New haircut, but same old Peter Sagan. The world champion was on imperious form at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, although perhaps overestimated his strength by doing too much work early on, and had to settle for second.
The next day at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, however, he showed a remarkable lack of fatigue to go out on the attack again, and this time paced himself perfectly and nailed the finish to outsmart a jittery Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) for victory.
Strategist: Greg van Avermaet (BMC)
Greg Van Avermaet proved the smartest rider at Het Nieuwsblad, first being alert to selection-forming attacks from Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), and then striking the perfect balance between letting Sagan do the lion’s share of the work early on, then taking more turns himself to ensure the trio stayed away.
Finally, when it came to the sprint, he forced Sagan to ride from the front, and timed his move perfectly to repeat his victory in the same race last year.
Team Captain: Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo)
As if adopting the same instigating role of retired ex-teammate Fabian Cancellara, the 24-year old Stuyven took it upon himself to force the selection in both the weekend’s cobbled classics, leading the peloton up the Taaienberg at Het Nieuwsblad, and forcing Sagan and co to follow his decisive attack at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
He had the legs to match his aggression too, finishing second in the latter, closing a considerable gap to Peter Sagan in the final sprint.
Sprinter: Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)
In the season’s first big showdown between the major sprinters at the Abu Dhabi Tour, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Kittel and Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) each shared the spoils with a stage each.
Kittel’s was the most impressive, however. Despite finding himself well adrift on the finishing straight of stage two, he stormed up the peloton surfing wheels to pip an unsuspecting Ewan to the line.
Climber: Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates)
While Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and the other major favourites engaged in a phoney war on the Abu Dhabi Tour’s queen stage, Rui Costa took things into his own hands by committing to an attack on the Jebel Hafeet climb.
Only Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) followed his initiative, and the two capitalised on the others’ continued hesitancy to stay clear until the finish line - where Rui Costa promptly won the sprint to seal both the stage and overall victory.
Domestique: Ellen Van Dijk (Sunweb)
Lucinda Brand has a lot to thank Sunweb teammate Ellen Van Dijk for helping her win Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. Van Dijk took the pressure off her teammate by getting into a two-woman break with Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) for much of the day, and then, when the catch was finally made, was able to mark their rivals as Brand embarked on her own race-winning attack.
Lead-out man: Roger Kluge (Orica-Scott)
Of the sprint trains at the Abu Dhabi Tour Orica-Scott’s was the most impressive; and of their lead-out men Roger Kluge stood out, as his considerable frame shepherded the comparatively tiny Caleb Ewan to victory on stage four.
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