The opening stage, from Qasr Al Sarab to Madinat Zayed was reduced from 174km to 159.9km due to searing temperatures. As the mercury pushed toward 45 degrees Celsius, the peloton maintained a conservative pace until the end of the stage, where a bunch sprint decided the day’s winner.
A few riders took advantage of the leisurely pace, challenging the heat and a strong headwind. The first breakaway of the race formed after just 4km, when six riders escaped: Paul Voss (Bora), Will Clarke (Drapac), Songezo Jim (MTN-Qhubeka), Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai), Michael Thompson (Team Wiggins) and Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare). At 24km their lead reached its maximum of four minutes and five seconds.
Before the first intermediate sprint, in Liwa (70km), Thompson lost contact with the lead group. Clarke, Bazzana, Mancebo and Jim filled the first four places at the sprint.
After 95km, only Voss and Mancebo remained at the head of the race. At the second intermediate sprint, in Liwa (101.5km), Voss and Mancebo filled the first two places in the sprint, with Jim third at 1min 50sec and Henao fourth at 2min 6sec, at the head of the peloton.
After the second intermediate sprint, Voss relented, leaving Mancebo alone in the race lead. At approximately 128km, Tunisian national champion Rafaa Chtioui (Skydive Dubai) darted out of the peloton, passed his team-mate Mancebo and moved to the head of the race.
Chtioui held off the chasing peloton until the Red Kite marking the final kilometre of the race. The peloton, led by team-mates of some of the fastest sprinters in the world, accelerated around the final curve with 500m to go, before Guardini shot ahead of his rivals to win the first ever stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) rolled through in second and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) finished in third.
Stage 1: 159.9km, Qasr Al Sarab - Madinat Zayed
1 Andrea Guardini (ITA) Astana 4hr 21min 11sec
2 Tom Boonen (BEL) Etixx-QuickStep
3 Daniele Bennati (ITA) Tinkoff-Saxo
4 Andrea Palini (ITA) Skydive Dubai
5 Marco Canola (ITA) UnitedHealthcare
6 Edwin Avila (COL) Colombia
7 Elia Viviani (ITA) Team Sky
8 Jose Joaquin Rojas (SPA) Movistar
9 Michael Schwarzmann (GER) Bora-Argon 18
10 Luka Mezgec (SLO) Giant-Alpecin