Abu Dhabi Tour stage 1 comes down to bunch sprint
Elia Viviani takes fourth in Madinat Zayed at the end of a long day through the desert, in which neo-pro James Knox impressed with the amount of kilometers spent at the front of the bunch.
The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour began Wednesday afternoon with a flat 189km stage which had bunch sprint written all over it. That's why only five riders showed any interest in going into the break: Vincenzo Albanese (Bardiani), Damiano Caruso (BMC), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Nikolay Trusov (Gazprom-RusVelo). The quintet kept going together for over 120 kilometers, before a few skirmishes saw some of them getting dropped or easing off to wait for the peloton.
Among the riders to chase behind the escapees was also Quick-Step Floors' James Knox; the Cumbrian neo-pro, who was signed by the team last year after impressing in such races as Tour of Croatia, Ronde de l'Isard, Giro della Valle d'Aosta and Tour de l'Avenir, stayed at the head of proceedings from the outset of the stage and traded turns with other riders, while making sure he kept the attackers on a leash, not allowing them to take their advantage over the four-minute mark.
As the kilometers ticked down, the 22-year-old climber, whose debut was delayed two weeks ago by a small knee injury, continued to ride selflessly and do an incredible job for the team, drilling the pace and pushing the watts until the last survivor of the breakaway was brought back to heel, with 12 kilometers remaining.
Inside the last five kilometers, the Quick-Step Floors sprint train began assembling for Elia Viviani. Best young rider of the previous edition, Julian Alaphilippe upped the pace and piloted the team on the left side of the road, in what became a fierce battle for position with the other teams. In the final, the stiff headwind got to play a major role, causing chaos in the pack and influencing the fight for victory, which was bagged in by Alexander Kristoff (Team UAE Emirates).
Dubai Tour champion Elia Viviani resumed his adventure in the Middle East after a week with a fourth place in Madinat Zayed and will now look to another opportunity, which should come on stage 2, when the riders will travel from Yas Mall to Yas Beach, over 154 kilometers.
Photo: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images