With their ace Mathieu van der Poel leading after one stage, Alpecin-Fenix withdrew from the 2021 WorldTour-opening UAE Tour before Monday’s time trial following a COVID-19 positive on its staff on Sunday evening. This comes one day after Continental team St Michel-Auber93 pulled out of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Va before the final stage due to a positive on its team.
— Alpecin-Fenix Cycling Team (@AlpecinFenix) February 22, 2021
Last February, the race’s final two stages were cancelled after two Italian staff members on one of the teams tested positive for COVID-19. Adam Yates, leading Tadej Pogačar by 1:01, was declared the winner. Then the riders and staff were quarantined in their hotel rooms, with Canadian Alex Cataford hunkering down with his Israel Start-up Nation squad. After the UAE Tour, the WorldTour—and nearly all world professional road cycling—was put on hold for five months.
Van der Poel’s status for the Spring Classics opener Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Sunday and beyond is uncertain.
Van der Poel might still start Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne if he doesn’t have to go in isolation. PCR-1 is supposed to be taken today, PCR-2 in 3 days. If both return negative he probably could start. #OHN
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) February 22, 2021
The First Two Stages
Van der Poel took the opening stage win and the race lead in extraordinary circumstances. Wicked crosswinds on Stage 1 dashed the GC hopes of most of the top-10 contenders, with gusts lashing the riders immediately after the start.
This footage Velon tweeted shows the echelons forming with 170 km to go, the riders sandblasted from the right hand side of the road.
Don’t you just love echelons 🌪
🇦🇪 #UAETour pic.twitter.com/zZOJrZu31H
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) February 21, 2021
Only 23 riders finished within 1:02 of van der Poel. The next group to finish 8:29 after van der Poel contained Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, Sergio Higuita and Dani Martinez. Among the GC men, only Adam Yates, Tadej Pogačar—winner and runner-up last season—João Almeida and Fausto Masnada survived the split.
On Monday, world chrono champion Filippo Ganna won his eighth consecutive time trial, this one over 13 km on Al Hudayriat Island.
Perfect form leads to perfect power ⚡
الوضعية الأمثل تعني التحلّي بالقوة الأمثل@AbuDhabiSC pic.twitter.com/VMm0PE6g14
— UAE Tour Official (@uae_tour) February 22, 2021
Pogačar, fourth on the day, now leads Almeida on GC by five seconds with Yates 39 seconds back.
🔴 A GC shake-up after the TT, @TamauPogi is the new leader of #UAETour 🇦🇪! #UAETEeamEmirates #RideTogether pic.twitter.com/HmVboOERXg
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) February 22, 2021
The UAE Tour continues Tuesday with the queen stage, one that ends atop Jebel Hafeet.
2021 UAE Tour GC
1) Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia/UAE-Emirates) 4:00:05
2) João Almeida (Portugal/Deceuninck-Quick Step) +0:05
3) Chris Harper (Australia/Jumbo-Visma) +0:33