Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria pipped former teammate Elia Viviani following wind-swept second stage in Abu Dhabi, which is all set to host 2019 Special Olympics World Games in March …
It was a near-photo finish within eyesight of the Abu Dhabi ‘Big Flag’ as UAE-Team Emirates only needed two days to capture a victory on home soil thanks to new team sprinter Fernando Gaviria.
The 24-year-old Colombian narrowly defeated former teammate Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) on the line after a 184-kilometre wind-swept Stage 2 from Yas Island to the central business district marina to lift the green points jersey from the back of current race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
“I have to thank the team for its great work and the attention it gave when the group broke up in the side-winds,” said Gaviria. “They took control of the race, which was big since our sponsors were expecting a lot from us. We had the responsibility to do well. We pulled off a big win.
“Alexander Kristoff worked exceptionally well for me, bringing me into perfect position for the sprint,” he continued. “He’s one of the strongest riders in the world, and he proved that today in the sprint.”
Of the many race officials and dignitaries on hand at the Abu Dhabi finish along the shores of the Persian Gulf, one of specific importance was the presence of Dr. Yousef Al Hammadi, Chief Intelligence Officer of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi next month.
“We are happy to be sponsoring the second stage of the UAE Tour,” said Al Hammadi. “It is a nice gathering for athletes from across the globe. The completion is a very high level here.
“That’s part of the UAE hosting world-class games,” he continued. “We are hosting in Abu Dhabi the Special Olympics World Games from 14-22 March. We are inviting and expecting more than 7,500 athletes — people of determination who have an intellectual disability — coming from about 200 countries in the world for the first time in the history of Special Olympics.”
The two-time Tour de France stage winner is tied on time with three teammates, while Sunweb’s Wilco Kelderman (NED) is listed as his closest rival at six seconds off general classification. Kelderman’s teammate and countryman Tom Dumoulin is seven seconds adrift, followed by Grand Tour triple crown winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) at nine seconds back.
The race resumes on Tuesday with Stage 3 — 179km from UAE University to Jabel Hafeet — which features a 10.8km summit finish at 1,028m above sea level.