Birthday boy Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) won Stage 2 of the 2018 Dubai Tour, from Skydive Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah (190km), in a bunch sprint.
At the finish line he snatched victory from Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL – Jumbo), who remains in the lead of the overall General Classification. Third across the line was Astana’s Riccardo Minali.
Speaking seconds after the stage finish, Italy’s Viviani, who celebrated a win alongside his 29th birthday, said: “Having my birthday today added to my motivation. Losing yesterday was also good for my head.
“Overnight we felt like we missed one chance that would never be given back. I feel I’m in good condition and have the legs for winning. I had a mechanical (issue) but luckily it was with 20km to go and I had time to come back.
“With 500m to go, my lead out man Fabio Sabatini closed the gap. I chose (Alexander) Kristoff’s wheel. I saw Groenewegen coming back with 50 meters but finally the line was in the right place for me to win. I’m pretty happy.”
GC leader and blue Jersey wearer Groenewegen said: “It’s very hard to come only second today after winning yesterday. I had mechanical problems with my first bike, and also with the second 1.5km before the finish.
“That’s how I lost my sprint train and I came very late to the front for sprinting. The only good point for today is that I’m still in the lead of the overall classification but I wanted to win the stage.”
Blue Jersey, sponsored by the Commercial Bank of Dubai (General Classification) – Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL – Jumbo)
Red Jersey, sponsored by Emirates (Points) – Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL – Jumbo)
White Jersey, sponsored by RTA – Roads and Transport Authority (Best Young Rider) – Dylan Groenewegen (Team Lotto NL – Jumbo)
UAE Flag Jersey, sponsored by DHA – Dubai Health Authority (Intermediate Sprints) – Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing Team)
Stage 3 – Dubai Silicon Oasis Stage (180km)
From Skydive Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah
Finish: Approx 15.05
Wearing the UAE colours for the first time, the Norwegian was just short of being in on the bunch sprint finish that saw Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) claim the stage from Skydive Dubai to Palm Jumeirah, with Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana Pro Team) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing) also separating Kristoff from the leader.
While the 30-year-old managed to avoid the late crash that sent several riders tumbling to the pavement, he couldn’t capitalise by pushing the pace when it mattered and that was ultimately the difference in making the podium and finishing just off of it.
“I’m happy to have the support of the team in what is my UAE Team Emirates debut. It was a pretty chaotic sprint finish because the race was easy for the majority of the course and it’s always more difficult in the final kilometres when everybody’s fresh,” said the reigning European Road Race champion.
“My teammates led me out well and I managed to avoid the crash, but unfortunately, I had to break in the final hundred metres, when I was focused on pushing forward. But, despite this, I am satisfied with the performance for my first race of 2018.”
“I’m happy to have the support of the team in what is my #UAETeamEmirates debut.” Said @Kristoff87 after finished a respectable fourth place in what was a thrilling sprint finish during stage 1 of the #DubaiTour 🇦🇪.— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) February 6, 2018
Asked why he had to brake down the stretch, Kristoff replied: “People were left and right and suddenly you have a clear shot for the finish, you look down and sprint, then you look up and suddenly it’s not clear anymore. There were many times like this.”
Kristoff has now gotten his feet wet with his new team after previously riding for Katusha-Alpecin, a side he jostled with as a foe at the end of the first stage.
Though the crash unfortunately took out one of his co-riders, the UAE’s own Yousif Mirza, the European champion was pleased with the on-course chemistry on display between him and his team-mates.
“I think we worked well together,” Kristoff said. “They got me in position, unfortunately I had to brake a bit, but the position was not so bad. So it’s quite a good start and we’ll continue to work like this.”
Mirza helped assist Kristoff for most of the race, but couldn’t escape when a collision caused the crash inside the final 10km.
The four-time reigning UAE national champion entered the season with high hopes after getting professional racing experience under his belt with UAE Team Emirates in 2017, who made him the first Emirati to ride for a UCI WorldTour team after his stint with Al Nasr Pro Cycling Team-Dubai.
However, the opening stage didn’t go Mirza’s way and he had to settle for 107th place out of 110 riders who finished.
“It’s a pity that the Dubai Tour began with a little bit of bad luck for me,” Mirza said. “I was trying to give my support to the team in order to help Kristoff approach the sprint in the best possible position, but the riders in front of me crashed and I could not avoid them.
“Luckily there were no serious injuries and we can look ahead to tomorrow’s stage, where we hope to have more of the amazing support that we witnessed today.”
A late crash inside the final 10 kilometres from Skydive Dubai to Palm Jumeirah on day one meant Al Mansoori unjustly crossed in 108th place out of 110 cyclists to finish.
But Al Mansoori was part of all the right action for most of the race as he jumped out in the breakaway group, along with Andy Fenn (Aqua Blue Sport), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Cofidis), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing) and Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk).
The breakaway ambition was part of a plan handed down to UAE National Team riders ahead of the stage and Al Mansoori followed through to put his nation’s colours in a share of the early limelight.
“Before the race, the coach told us ‘you must break away’ and we tried until we reached it,” Al Mansoori said.
Somewhat predictably, the breakaway couldn’t stave off the peloton as Al Mansoori and the others were eventually swallowed up by the charging brigade.
What couldn’t be foreseen, however, was the crash in the middle of Palm Jumeirah that wiped out several riders, with Al Mansoori knocked off his bike in the carnage.
Though he couldn’t remember exactly how it unfolded, Al Mansoori was disappointed that the collision meant a sour finish for him and his team.
“We had a crash and we couldn’t stay in the peloton. Three (UAE National Team) riders got caught in the crash with about eight kilometres left.”
Fortunately for Al Mansoori, his injuries didn’t require a trip to hospital or affect his humour as he said with a laugh: “I’m okay, better than yesterday.”
Now in his fourth Dubai Tour, Al Mansoori can check off a box on his list after being part of the breakaway for the first time in the event on home soil.
But it may not be his last as he fully expects his team’s approach to remain unchanged in the coming stages.
Al Mansoori said: “We will try to make another attack to take the UAE flag jersey (for intermediate sprint).”