• Team Jumbo-Visma won the race against the clock on the opening stage of the 2019 UAE Tour, putting their man Primoz Roglic into the race lead (LaPresse)Source: LaPresse
Giro d’Italia title contenders got their first look at each other on stage one of the UAE Tour, which opened with a team time trial that Primoz Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team won yesterday.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
25 Feb 2019 - 9:22 AM 

The outfit charged through the flat 16km course at Al Hudayriat Island in 16 minutes and 49 seconds, averaging 57km/h, to put Roglic in the first leader’s jersey of the race.

Roglic has a seven second lead on Tom Dumoulin, whose Sunweb squad finished runner-up. Australians Rohan Dennis and Heinrich Haussler helped power Bahrain-Merida to third with a time of 16-58.

Ski jumper turned cyclist Roglic marked a career breakthrough at the Tour de France last season, winning a stage and finishing fourth overall. However, the 29-year-old, like Dumoulin, is set to focus on the Giro d’Italia at least first this season.

“The rivals we have here are pretty much the same we’ll have in other races later this year. The Giro d’Italia is my main goal but I just look at myself and try to be the best,” said Roglic.

“We came here with a strong team for the team time trial, but we still had to do the job. It’s a really nice way to start the season and to realise how well we can do in a TTT. Sunweb was very close, so we were quite nervous waiting for them to cross the line. It’s true that we are here with the goal of winning GC, but it’s not done yet.”

Dumoulin was not surprised to see Jumbo-Visma claim the opener in Abu Dhabi, especially with Roglic, Tony Martin and Jos van Emden swapping turns.

“If it had been 50km up and down then we would have had a shot, but with this it’s not unexpected,” he said. “At the end we were missing out on a little bit of fire power but all in all I think we can be very happy, especially with the young team we have here. It’s very satisfying.”

The Dutch champion, who finished second overall at both the Giro and Tour de France last season, makes his season debut in the UAE with an eye to the overall title here – not in Italy.

“I like to start my season here the last couple of years but I’m also here to try and race hard and win the GC with Wilco [Kelderman] or me. I don’t look at all the races as being build-ups towards that final goal. I always get questions like that, but this race also matters to me. That’s why I don’t do many races. I do maybe 60 races a year but in all 60 I want to perform.”

Dennis, in what is his second WorldTour appearance with new team Bahrain-Merida, is supporting Vincenzo Nibali and Damiano Caruso after leading the squad at the Tour Down Under. The time trial world champion tipped a top five finish for stage one, which the outfit comfortably achieved.

“None of us have really done a team time trial together,” Dennis said.

The 28-year-old had his own shot at the Giro with former team BMC Racing last year but will look to support Nibali in the Tour de France this season. He agreed racing with the Italian across the Emirates was beneficial to that endeavour.

“The more days of racing with these guys the better. You don’t want to come into a race and never have ridden next to somebody, it makes it hard. As you saw today, we did a really strong and good race, but practice makes perfect and we haven’t had much time to practice,” he said.