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Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Fenix celebrates after crossing the finish line during the first stage of the UAE Tour in Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: Belgian Jasper Philipsen saw off a strong field to lay claim to the first stage of the new WorldTour season today, dominating a sprint finish to the UAE Tour’s 184 kilometre opening stage.

The 23-year-old, tackling the race for the second time, got the better of Sam Bennett with Ineos Grenadiers’ Elia Viviani crossing in third.

Philipsen donned the leader’s red jersey after a largely flat ride culminating in a home straight stretching 50km through the Abu Dhabi desert.

Tough climbing stages

Trickier days are to come which will give two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar his chance.

The Skovenian, the winner in 2021, is the favourite in race that has two tough climbing stages and a tricky 9km individual time-trial.

Having triumphed across the peaks and plains of France, Pogacar starts his preparation for a third tilt at cycling’s greatest prize in the seven-day race across the dust and desert in his UAE Emirates team’s home race.