Tim Merlier won stage six of UAE Tour on Saturday, to guarantee he takes the green sprint jersey in a top class field.
The Belgian rider has been in the mix on all the big sprint stages, and won two of them, while his team leader Remco Evenepoel remains in the overall lead with Sunday’s deciding mountain stage still to come.
“It was another hectic finish today, but I was put into a great position with 500 metres to go and then went for a long sprint,” Merlier said. “Thankfully I was able to hold on and I am happy to win in the green jersey.”
Mark Cavendish failed to finish in the top 10 in his first outing with new team Astana.
World and Vuelta a Espana champion Evenepoel will ride Sunday’s culminating mountain stage with a slender 9s cushion ahead of Luke Plapp, while Pello Bilbao is at 13s.
Evenepoel said he was already focussed on the next stage.
“It is an important one for me and I would very much like to defend this red jersey and win this race,” he said.