Monday February 22 — Al Hudayriat Island, 13km (time trial)
Filippo Ganna’s blistering start to the season continued on stage two at the UAE Tour as the world time trial champion took his third win of 2021 following his two victories at Etoile de Bessèges earlier in the month.
Ganna’s (Ineos Grendiers) win on the panflat course in the desert — finishing 14sec ahead of Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) and 21sec faster than Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) — came just hours after overnight leader Mathieu van der Poel was forced to abandon after a staff member of his Alpecin-Fenix team had tested positive for coronavirus.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) became the new race leader after finishing fourth on the day, the Slovenian taking a 5sec lead into the third stage ahead of Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step) with Chris Harper (Jumbo-Visma) in third at 33sec. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) moved up to fifth on general classification though lost 34sec to Pogacar while Chris Froome (Israel Start-up Nation) dropped three places in the overall standings and lost 1min 12sec on the new race leader.
Stage one: Van der Poel blows away rivals to take early lead
Sunday February 21 — Al Yash to Al Mirfa, 177km
Mathieu van der Poel powered into an early lead at the UAE Tour after the Dutchman won a sprint finish at the end of an opening stag that was blown apart by vicious crosswinds. The Alpecin-Fenix rider beat compatriot David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma) with relative ease, while Deceuninck-Quick Step leadout man Michael Morkov took third.
Although he also beat Elia Viviani (Cofidis), who was competing in his first race since undergoing a heart operation, Van der Poel went largely untested after a number of the top sprinters — Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) — were caught out by the crosswinds. It was not only the sprinters that were hampered by the echelons that formed in the flat and fast stage. Chris Froome, making his debut for Israel Start-up Nation, finished over eight minutes down on Van der Poel while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Victorious) and Ivan Sosa (Ineos Grenadiers) also paid the price for missing the early split.
Adam Yates, the defending champion who was making his Ineos Grenadiers debut, made it into the lead bunch before the Briton finally finished alongside Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick Step), just 3sec behind pre-race favourite Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates).