Cycling: Tim Merlier wins UAE Tour opener

Belgian professional cyclist Tim Merlier won the first stage of the UAE Tour. The 31-year-old from the Soudal-Quick-Step team prevailed in the mass sprint at the start from Al Dhafra Walk to Liwa Palace ahead of the Dutchman Arvid De Kleijn from Tudor Pro Cycling.

The Italian Jakub Mareczko from the Corratec-Vini Fantini racing team completed the podium after an undulating 143 kilometers. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) crossed the finish line as the best German. A few hundred meters before the end of the stage, several riders fell.

The UAE Team Emirates will be competing at their home race in the United Arab Emirates without their Slovenian superstar Tadej Pogacar. Instead of the two-time Tour winner, his noble helper Adam Yates (England), who came third last year, is aiming for overall victory.

Like Pogacar, defending champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick-Step) is also not there. The Belgian time trial world champion only won the Tour of Algarve on Sunday. From a German perspective, Emanuel Buchmann and Ben Zwiehoff (both Bora-hansgrohe) are among the contenders in the overall ranking.

On the second stage on Tuesday, the professionals fight against the clock in the individual time trial. A 12.1 km long circuit has to be completed on the almost undeveloped island of Al-Hudayriyat in front of the capital Abu Dhabi. The sixth edition of the week-long UAE Tour ends on Sunday in Jebel Hafeet.