Andrea Guardini (Astana) won the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour 2015, after it was shortened due to the heat. Guardini was forced to jump around a slowing Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) but still had the legs to beat Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) Sagan’s teammate Daniele Bennati.
The stage had been reduced by 14.5km after the high temperatures (around 40 C°) made for a slow day of racing, and the peloton had just one corner to manage in the final 500 metres after more than 50 kilometres of straight roads. Sagan wound up the sprint, working as a lead-out man for Bennati rather than his own ambitions.
Bennati flicked out to the right from Sagan’s wheel moments before Guardini did the same down the left, holding the others off to claim his third win of the season.
The heat beat down on the riders at the start in Qasr Al Sarab resort in the desert. Three riders wouldn’t make it that far though as Jacopo Guarnier (Katusha) was forced to quit due to illness, while Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare) also failed to start as a result of a training crash. Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) didn’t even make it to Abu Dhabi, with visa problems putting paid to any hopes he had.
A headwind and the relentless temperatures made for a very slow start to the day. Six men did brave the heat and broke free of the peloton. Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18), Songezo Jim (MTN-Qhubeka), William Clarke (Drapac), Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai), Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare) and Michael Thompson (WIGGINS) were the hardy souls.
They managed to build a lead of over four minutes but the heat took its toll. Thompson was the first to crack, looking a little worse for wear. Clarke and Bazzana were next, but not until Clarke took the first intermediate sprint.
They continued to drop like metaphorical flies until only Mancebo remained. There was some good news for the riders as the organisers agreed to remove the final 14.5-kilometre loop due to the slow pace and the heat.
Mancebo kept a good advantage of around two minutes but when Lampre-Merida took to the front that was demolished pretty quickly. His teammate Rafaa Chtioui sensed that Mancebo’s day was done and struck out with less than 30 kilometres to go. Chtioui asked his teammate to follow, as he breezed past him, but Mancebo had nothing left.
There was a small sense of panic as Chtioui’s lead went up to two minutes but the peloton quickly regrouped and brought him back just outside the flamme rouge. Sagan led the sprint but it was Guardini that came out victorious.
1. Andrea Guardini 4h21’11” (Astana)
2. Tom Boonen (Etixx Quick Step)
3. Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff Saxo)
4. Andrea Palini (Skydive Dubai)
5. Marco Canola (UnitedHealthcare)
6. Edwin Avila (Team Colombia)
7. Elia Viviani (Team Sky)
8. José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar)
9. Michael Schwarzmann (Bora Argon 18)
10. Luka Mezgec (Giant Alpecin)