Merlier convinces the ‘photo finish’ in a very tight sprint with Ewan

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny) raised his fist, but not even the ‘photo finish’ was clear. After more than ten minutes of waiting and an almost impossible, microscopic analysis, the victory was for Tim Merlier (Quick Step). One of the closest sprints in recent times and, finally, the 25th victory for the Belgian, first leader of the UAE Tour after winning a stage marked by wind, a Remco Evenepoel that is dynamite even on flat days and an indecipherable outcome, which can continue to leave doubts. Ewan and Mark Cavendish (Astana), shoulder to shoulder, lit the fuse and Bert Van Lerberghe, opportunely, launched Merlier before a final right-hand corner. He came out of it in first position and Caleb, who has remodeled his technique to fly (he no longer lowers his head), began to climb. Not enough. At least for the judges.

In modern cycling, no day is dull. Neither because of the outcomes of the stages, like today’s as an example taken to the extreme, nor because of its course, with runners who are born troublemakers. Among them, an Evenepoel who does not understand transitions, breaks or pauses. The world champion was the first to launch his compatriot. Practically, from the first bars marked by the fans. The 151 kilometers between Al Dhafra Castle and Al Mirfa presented no mountainous difficulties, but that is no longer always synonymous with predictable. At the finish line, without going any further, a group of only 12 runners arrived. Among them, of course, a Remco wanting to start the year strongwho wants to inherit the crown from Tadej Pogacar in the East, and a fantastic Pello Bilbao (Bahrain), always making good cuts and warning the Belgian prodigy: in the two mountain stages present in the round (3 and 7), it could be his main rival.

As soon as it started, Bahrain, Ineos and Quick-Step broke the race into four groups. The race situation remained for the first 100 kilometres, when Evenepoel refused to open the doors. After being more than five minutes away, fusion was beginning to look possible. Right at that moment, the Belgian accelerated without looking back, taking the chosen eleven with him. 2.5 km from the end, as if that were not enough, he tried it alone, with Bilbao attached to his wheel and as a brake on his interests. He did not find a prize for the individual bet on the rainbow jersey, but his team did. “In the end, he was all very tight. They waited, I think, 15 minutes to decide the winner, but I am very proud that I was able to take the victory here. Everyone suffered and the team did a great job. I have to thank Remco. He is very strong ”, assessed Merlier after a tense and long wait. After convincing the ‘photo finish’, which he still doubts.

Classification | Stage 1

1st Tim Merlier (Bél/Quick Step) – 3:17:35

2nd Caleb Ewan (Aus/Lotto) – mt

3rd Mark Cavendish (GBr/Astana) – mt

8º Remco Evenepoel (Bél/Quick Step) – mt

9º Pello Bilabo (Span/Bahrain) – mt

Classification | General

1st Tim Merlier (Bél/Quick Step) – 3:17:35

2nd Caleb Ewan (Aus/Lotto) – at 4″

3rd Mark Cavendish (GBr/Astana) – 5″

8º Remco Evenepoel (Bél/Quick Step) – 8″

9º Pello Bilabo (Span/Bahrain) – 8″

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