The 2022 WorldTour calendar opened on Sunday, in the United Arab Emirates, with a first stage looking a lot like a sprinters’ world championship considering the field lining-up in the UAE Tour. After quite a straightforward day, the bunch sprint proved to be very nervous. Under these conditions, Arnaud Démare took sixth place on the day while Jasper Philipsen grabbed the win. More opportunities await the former French champion in the next few days.

The opening stage of the UAE Tour was a unique one over 184 kilometres with start and finish in Madinat Zayed. “It was a bit of a special stage, said Sébastien Joly. It was a long straight line back and forth and a short lap in the dunes, also back and forth. There was rather a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back. Five fugitives went out quickly and the sprinters’ teams took control.” At the head of the race, Luca Rastelli, Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Pavel Kochetkov, Dmitry Strakhov (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Xandres Vervloesem (Lotto Soudal) then showed their colours while the peloton managed its pace as wished. “It was a calm day even if it was a bit hard in the south, in the dunes”, testified Arnaud Démare. Without even leading a frantic chase, the pack caught the day’s breakaway twenty kilometres from the finish. “About ten kilometres from the finish, the pace was not yet very high, it was a bit unusual,” added Sébastien. “The fight only started six kilometres from the line”. Two kilometres further, the Groupama-FDJ’s train appeared at the front of the peloton. “We tried to stay together with the guys, but we lost a little bit each other towards the end,” said Arnaud. “We couldn’t do what we wanted, but it’s also difficult because everyone was fresh, everyone could give his 100% and it’s a strong field. This is the world championship for sprinters”.

“A super-fast sprint”, Arnaud Démare

While Miles Scotson and Ramon Sinkeldam were able to take control on the left around the flamme rouge, Arnaud Démare took the wheel of some of his rivals on the right of the road. “He positioned himself in the wheel of Groenewegen and Philipsen, it was a rather special sprint, he rubbed shoulders with the others and finished sixth”, commented Sébastien. The former French champion brought some noteworthy data to describe this final. “The last kilometre was done at an average speed of 71 km/h and the maximum speed in the sprint was 77 km/h,” he explained. “It was a super-fast sprint, which you don’t see very often, although it is more common here on the UAE Tour”. The Frenchman therefore starts his campaign in the Gulf with a sixth place and is now looking forward to other opportunities. “We were able to adjust today, and the sprint did not go that bad, even if we are disappointed”, he added. “We just need to find our bearings again. Physically, we’re doing well. I think there are good things to take from today and others that we will talk about together. We always seek better results, but it’s not a bad day though”. “We are going to debrief peacefully and see what we can implement to do better next time,” concluded Sébastien Joly. Next time should be tomorrow.

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