Third and the white jersey for Ewan on stage one of the Abu Dhabi TourWed 21 Feb 2018
The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour began with a solid performance from Mitchelton-SCOTT and 2017 stage winner Caleb Ewan as the Australian national criterium champion took third place on the opening stage and the white jersey for best young rider.
With the first three stages all favouring the sprinters it was no surprise that the breakaway was allowed up the road early on as the peloton rode a steady a tempo over much of the 189kilometres across the wide desert roads.
Mitchelton-SCOTT played their part in the catch as the business end of the stage approached with returning Canadian stalwart Svein Tuft the man leading the chase.
Once back together the race came down to the expected bunch sprint with Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team-Emirates) launching from the wheel of Ewan and managing to hold off the bunch with Ewan taking a close third.
An early breakaway established itself over the opening kilometres with five riders going clear and developing a four-minute lead over the bunch that fluctuated until settling at three minutes with 130kilometres to go.
Not much change occurred until the closing 30kilometres when the break split leaving only two riders dangling out front with one-minute 30seconds on the peloton.
The catch was inevitable and it finally came at 13kilometres to go with Tuft leading the charge of the peloton.
The Finale – Bunch sprint:
With the catch made the nerves began to creep in over the final ten kilometres as the sprinters teams fought for position on the wide roads, with each team aiming to be on the front foot as the race hit the final two turns with three kilometres to go.
Ewan made it through the turns in good shape, but it was Kristoff who hit out from Ewan’s wheel into the headwind with the bunch chasing in vain as the Norwegian held on to the line for the win with Ewan in third place.
Caleb Ewan – Third:
“It was pretty cruisy all day, not too much wind and I only really ramped up with around five kilometres to go and from there it was full gas. We had all the guys there going into the last kilometre and from there it was a drag up to the line into a headwind.”
“I think I probably started my sprint too early and ideally should have come from behind or let one of the other sprinters start their sprint first, but I didn’t want to risk losing any speed, so I committed. The sensations are good, the guys did a great job and I feel strong so there are plenty of positive signs for the next few days.”
Sport director Dave McPartland:
“We did a recon of today’s finish and week new that it was going to be really open and exposed and it would be important to be well positioned for the final. The guys did really well and dropped Caleb off in a good position, but he was maybe in the wind a little bit too long and started his sprint slightly early.”
“Kristoff came off Caleb’s wheel and it ended up being very close, but we can see that he is in great shape and we can take lots of positives out of today’s performance.
“It is only the first stage and we came out of it with the white jersey and a really good showing from the team, we worked well when we needed to bring the break back and the lead out into the finish was executed almost to perfection.”
Abu Dhabi Tour stage one results:
1. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team-Emirates) 04:48:24
2. Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF) ST
3. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST
General Classification after stage one:
1. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team-Emirates) 04:48:14
2. Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF) +0:04
3. Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:06
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.