The world’s best sprinters are back in the Middle East, fighting in the UAE Tour. Jasper Philipsen won stage 1 in a chaotic sprint after deviating to the right side and closing the door for Dylan Groenewegen. The stage profile was completely flat and suited for sprinters, with no turns of note in the last 50km.
Literally nothing happened until the last few kilometers. Riders during the stage were not afraid to show TV cameras how bored they were. Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar even poured water on his teammates, Rafal Majka’s, bum. The last 60 kilometers of the stage were in a straight line and LR is not paying me enough to watch riders do 90 watts on the flat for four hours to tell you about it.
The TV breakaway was caught with around 19 km to go as the team trains started to assemble and pace hard, gradually increasing the speed with 5 km to go, fighting for a better position for their sprinters.
The sprint field level in the UAE Tour is unbelievably high. Mark Cavendish, Sam Bennett, Jasper Philipsen, Elia Viviani, Dylan Groenewegen, Arnaud Demare, Pascal Ackermann and many more good sprinters. From A-class sprinters only Caleb Ewan, Jakobsen and Merlier are missing. Ewan was supposed to sprint here, but chose in the end to stay in Europe, perhaps due to COVID-19. UAE-Emirates picked Fernando Gaviria, but the Colombian caught Covid for the third time, and he was replaced by Pascal Ackermann. This possibly is the strongest sprinters field we will see in 2022 as even the Tour de France might not have this depth of sprinters.
The MVP of the day was Jasper Philipsen’s lead-out man Jonas Rickaert. Alpecin-Fenix waited for the last moment to bring out their sprinter. Even with 1 km to go Philipsen was 8-10 riders deep in the peloton drafting. Only in the last moments Rickaert started to go to the front of the peloton and guided Philipsen, who was right behind him. It took him only 15 seconds to be in the perfect position, leaving Philipsen behind Pascal Ackerman’s wheel.
Philipsen launched his sprint and behind him was Dylan Groenewegen, who was ready to pass him from the right side, but Philipsen deviated from his lane to the right side and completely shut down the door.
Groenewegen for a brief moment needed to stop pedaling as he was very close to the barrier and overlapped with Alpecin-Fenix rider’s back wheel. Philipsen won the sprint, but Groenewegen behind him was visibly frustrated. This time the Belgian sprinter was not relegated, but with a stricter commissaire the outcome could possibly be different. In this early season Maximiliano Richeze in Tour of Oman stage 6 and Jordi Meeus in Volta ao Algarve stage 1 were relegated for less severe moves.
Sam Bennett in his first race in 2022 finished 2nd. He returned back in the off-season to Bora-Hansgrohe, whose lead-out train is not as strong as Quick-Step, his former team, but Danny van Poppel did a good job leading out Bennett today. Talking about Quick-Step, Mark Cavendish finished only 16th. He stopped pedaling after he knew that he was not going to win and did not want to risk it in a chaotic sprint.
Stage 2 is another chance for sprinters. There are 4 flat stages for fast guys in the UAE Tour.