- - UAE Tour 2023 Stage 1

UAE Tour 2023 Stage 1

photo credits @ UAE Tour

Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) won Stage 1, the Stage of the 2023 UAE Tour, by the tightest of margins ahead of Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny), with Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan Team) in third place.

Merlier is now the leader of the General and Points Classifications and has been awarded the race’s Red and Green Jerseys. Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) meanwhile, has moved top of the Young Rider and Intermediate Sprint Classifications and taken control of the White and Black Jerseys.

Speaking after the finish, the stage winner and new Red Jersey holder Merlier said: “I wasn’t sure if I’d won but I knew I did a good sprint. In the end it was very close and it took about 15 minutes to decide if I’d got the win, and now I know, I am really proud to get this victory.”

Race Highlights

The 151km stage from Al Dhafra Castle to Al Mirfa saw the winds blow and the main field split into several sections from early on before the first two groups on the road joined up. Irishman Bennett rode well in making that front group, of about 20 riders, with lead-out man Danny van Poppel.

The two groups merged with about 50km to go – creating a bunch of about 70 riders. But when a 13-man breakaway went clear from it, with just under 30km remaining, Bennett was unfortunately absent.

Up front, some of the sprinters had made the cut with lead-out help, though it was world champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) who stepped up to drive the breakaway forward. Keen to gain time on his general classification rivals, Evenepoel did not shy away from doing far more than his fair share.

And that extra work by the young Belgian rider was a key factor in helping the group stay clear, though there were plenty of others up front also with a real interest in the breakaway’s success.

Mark Cavendish was there with Cees Bol (Astana Qazaqstan Team) while Soudal-QuickStep had Evenepoel, Bert Van Lerberghe and Merlier. Bahrain Victorious had four in the move; Pello Bilbao, Matevž Govekar, Nikias Arndt and Phil Bauhaus. Luke Plapp was there for Ineos Grenadiers as was Olav Kooij for Jumbo Visma while Ewan had Lotto Dstny team mate Jarrad Drizners for company.

While the gap went to well over one minute in the final 10km it was back down to 51 seconds on the line, a great advantage for Evenepoel, Plapp and Bilbao to gain on the other general classification men on the first of seven days of racing.

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