Tim Merlier won the first stage of UAE Tour on Monday, pipping Lotto Dstny’s Caleb Ewan in a sprint finish.
The two riders finished shoulder to shoulder prompting a 10-minute delay as the race organisers pored over the photo finish in a bid to split them. They opted against calling it a dead heat and gave Merlier the win by the slimmest of margins.
“I was not sure,” Merlier said afterwards. “I know I did a good jump in the end, and I knew when I started my sprint that it was a good sprint.
“But Caleb was coming from the wheel and you know he’s a dangerous guy if he is in the wheel. In the end it was really close.”
Mark Cavendish was third after a windy ride of 151km on the United Arab Emirates’ northern coast.
It was a poor day for home side UAE Emirates as their team leader, the newly signed Adam Yates, had his chances of winning slip away in a cross wind.
Instead Merlier’s team-mate and compatriot Remco Evenepoel is now hot favourite to win this Tour after his power led an attack that dropped the entire peloton to 51sec.
A forlorn-looking Yates blamed the desert wind.
“We were actually the only guys in front which means we had to use a little bit more energy fighting for position and fighting the wind. In the end, we didn’t have the legs,” said Yates after other teams refused to join the bid to catch up.