Jasper Philipsen sprints to season-opening stage win in UAE

2. Cycling
Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Fenix (left) competes to cross the finish line during the first stage of the UAE cycling tour in Madinat Zayed (Zayed City) in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi on February 20, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
ABU DHABI — Belgian Jasper Philipsen saw off a strong field to lay claim to the first stage of the new WorldTour season on Sunday, dominating a sprint finish to the UAE Tour's 184km opening stage.اضافة اعلان

The 23-year-old, tackling the race for the second time, got the better of Sam Bennett with Ineos Grenadiers' Elia Viviani crossing in third.

Philipsen donned the leader's red jersey after a largely flat ride culminating in a home straight stretching 50km through the Abu Dhabi desert.

"It was the first race of the season so you don't know how your shape is in comparison with the other teams. I'm really looking forward to move on and try to repeat the same as we did today," said Philipsen.

"It won't always work out but it's good to win immediately and take the pressure off. We can be really proud of what we did," added the winner of a stage on the Vuelta a Espana last year to add to his three runner-up spots on the Tour de France.

In muscling his way to his 15th career stage victory, he appeared to impede Dylan Groenewegen.

The winner of two stages last week in Saudi Arabia was pushed off his line, against the barriers on the right, and narrowly missed a podium place.

Trickier days are to come which will give two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar who came in 10 seconds adrift in 27th his chance.

The Slovenian, the winner in 2021, is the favorite for the week that contains two tough days climbing and a tricky 9km individual time-trial.

Having triumphed across the peaks and plains of France, Pogacar starts his preparation for a third tilt at cycling's greatest prize in the seven-day race across the dust and desert in his UAE Emirates team's home race.

Monday's second stage, a 173km ride from Hudayriyat Island to Abu Dhabi Breakwater, should once again play into the hands of the sprinters.

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