UAE Tour: First stage victory for Belgium's Tim Merlier
Belgian Tim Merlier (Soudal - Quick Step) won the first stage of the UAE Tour on Monday. Merlier won the 151km WorldTour cycling event between Al Dhafra Castle and Al Mirfa in a millimetre sprint against Australian Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny). The race had to be decided by a photo finish. "I wasn't sure myself," Merlier admitted afterwards.
"I rode a good sprint and I had another good jump at the end," Merlier said in a flash interview, "but Caleb came from the wheel and then you know he's dangerous. It was very close, I didn't see it myself and in the end we had to wait a long time for a result, but I'm happy to have won."
It is the second win of the season for 30-year-old Merlier, who won the first stage of the Tour of Oman earlier this month. "I already won in the Tour and in the Giro, but winning here is also nice, especially since almost every big sprinter is at the start here. This win feels good, especially after such a tough race."
Briton Mark Cavendish (Astana) finished third and Dutchman Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) fourth. World champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal - Quick Step) was in the lead on the echelon stage but finished eighth.
The stage win also makes Merlier the first leader of the fifth edition of the UAE Tour. A 17km team time trial is scheduled for Tuesday, followed by the first climb on Wednesday.
The peloton rides during the first stage of the UAE cycling tour from al-Dhafra Castle to Qassar al-Mighayra St in al-Mirfa in the emirate of Abu Dhabi on February 20, 2023. © Giuseppe CACACE / AFP