• Mathieu van der Poel celebrates after taking out the first stage of the UAE Tour (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Mathieu van der Poel has won a crazy, wind-affected first stage of the UAE Tour.
Nick Houghton

22 Feb 2021 - 10:26 AM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2021 - 10:36 AM

The Alpecin-Fenix powered to the line in a frantic sprint finish at the finish line at Al Mirfa ahead of David Dekker and Michael Morkov to claim the first WorldTour stage win of 2021.

Victory for the reigning cyclo-cross world champion has helped him secure the Red Jersey at the top of the general classification as well as the Green Jersey for the leader of the Points Classification.

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Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team) emerged among the early favourites for the GC battle alongside Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and Joao Almeida (Deceuninc-QuickStep) with many GC contenders falling foul of the wild winds on the stage.

Crosswinds played havoc on the stage and led to the peloton splintering into smaller groups riding in echelons formation to help battle the conditions.

A 23-man breakaway formed only 60km into the 176km leg from Al Dahfra Castle to Al Mirfa.

Chris Froome, in his debut start for new team Israel Start-Up Nation, finished in the trailing group as he fell victim to the savage conditions.

Aussie Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and other leading sprinters including Sam Bennett (Deceuninc-QuickStep) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) missed the bunch sprint after being distanced earlier in the race.

Van der Poel’s win was an impressive return to World Tour racing and comes only three weeks after he took out the cyclo-cross World Championship for the fourth time.

“Today was very windy and a very hard race,” he said.

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“After the intermediate sprint a big group went away, and I was able to catch them. It was a really hard race...I know that I can finish it off in the sprint, but I didn’t expect it at all. It’s really nice to begin the road season with a win.

“I didn’t really expect this. I took some rest, and then I trained for one week with the team, and then I came here. I think this is cyclo-cross shape in the desert!”

The UAE Tour moves to Hudayriyat Island for Stage 2 with the riders taking part in a 13km Individual Time Trial.