Former ski jumper Primož Roglič finds himself donning the inaugural UAE Tour leader’s jersey thanks to a decisive team time trial victory on the Al Hudayriat Island circuit in Abu Dhabi…
Dutch WorldTour team Jumbo-Visma bested the Tom Dumoulin-led Team Sunweb by seven seconds to kick off the first edition of the UAE Tour (2.UWT) with a blazing victory in the opening stage team time trial in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
With an average speed of 57km/h, Jumbo-Visma completed the 16-kilometre Al Hudayriat Island circuit in a time of 16 minutes 49 seconds and knocked Bahrain-Merida off the hot seat in the process.
Bahrain, which featured both Grand Tour triple crown winner Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) and reigning world time trial champion Rohan Dennis (AUS), rounded out the podium behind Sunweb (16:56) with a time of 16:58 (+0:09).
Jumbo-Visma win Stage 1 to give Roglic lead
“First of all, I am super proud of the team today,” said Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin (GER), himself a four-time world individual time trial champion.
We invested a lot in the last weeks and months to get to where we are ready now.
“The big, big goal is the TTT in the Tour de France, but we showed already today that we are able also to win already now,” continued the 33-year-old German. “It was a huge victory for the whole team and also for myself. The last two years were not so easy for me and now starting the season with such a victory means a lot to me.
With the win, Jumbo-Visma rewarded team leader Primož Roglič with the inaugural leader’s jersey and a seven-second advantage over Dumoulin and eight seconds over the tandem of Nibali and Dennis. Sky’s Michał Kwiatkowski (POL), who assumed the team’s GC role thanks to the pre-race withdrawal of Chris Froome, sits 14 seconds adrift of the leader with six stages remaining.
“There are quite big gaps already between some GC contenders,” explained Martin. “For sure it gives us a lot of advantage. We want to go for GC with Primož, but still a long week, so even half a minute or one minute can be gone so fast. We hope the best, for the moment we have the perfect position and we hope this position stays.”
For Roglič, who opened his first race of the season with a win, the former ski jumper could not ask for a better result considering he coming off his best season to date, which included overall victories at Tour de Romandie, Itzulia Basque Country and Tour of Slovenia, as well as two stage wins at the Tour de France in which he also finished fourth on GC.
"We are very happy to start the season this way,” said Roglič. “We have a good team here with very strong time trialists, but that is no guarantee to perform well. You also have to show it in the race and that's what we did.
“I am glad that all the training we have done is already paying off,” continued the 29-year-old Slovenian. “It was a fast team time trial and it went very well. I came first through the last corner and then pulled a sprint. It's nice to have the leader's jersey and we certainly have ambitions to win this race. There are still some tough stages coming up, so we take it day by day. But we have an excellent start.”