Jasper Philipsen claimed the first WorldTour race of the season on Sunday when the Alpecin-Fenix rider won a fiercely contested sprint ahead of Sam Bennett and Elia Viviani at the UAE Tour.
Other than a five-man breakaway that was reined in just under 20 kilometres from the end of the 184km stage that both started and finished in Madinat Zayed, and a clipping of wheels in the peloton that resulted in Rick Zabel (Israel-Premier Tech) hitting the deck, it was a largely uneventful day of racing. That is, until the pace ratcheted up as the sprinters came to the fore.
In what is a packed field of world-class sprinters it will have surprised few to see Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl riding on the front in the final few kilometres in an effort to guide Mark Cavendish towards the second win of the year – the Briton took a stage at this month’s Tour of Oman – although the Belgian squad eased off the pace, allowing BikeExchange-Jayco to take over.
As the packed bunch neared the line and with Dylan Groenewegen, who joined BikeExchange-Jayco during the close window, appearing to be in the boxseat for the stage win, the Dutchman’s lead-out train uncoupled itself as the bunch entered the final metres.
Cavendish, who was relaxed ahead of the stage, appeared to lose half a pedal stroke in the finale and was slightly nudged off course, while Groenewegen found himself squeezed out by Philipsen who held on to take the stage in his first outing of the year.