A dejected Adam Yates could only count the precious seconds he had lost to Remco Evenepoel on the opening windswept stage of the UAE Tour.
Yates was making his 2023 racing debut and his debut in UAE Team Emirates colours on Monday, having only recently completed an altitude training camp. He replaced two-time winner Tadej Pogacar as UAE Team Emirates’ team leader for their home race but he now faces an uphill battle to get on the final podium.
Evenepoel finished the front echelon, in the same time as winner and Soudal-QuickStep teammate Tim Merlier. Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) were the other expected overall contenders in the front group of 13 riders, while Yates finished in the chase group, 51st at 51 seconds. Fellow UAE Team Emirates team leader Jay Vine also lost 51 seconds.
Yates missed the first split early in the stage, but he was in the second group on the road that bridged back up with 50km remaining, and he looked comfortable as he took turns on the front. But after the regrouping, like many other overall contenders, he missed the decisive split sparked by Soudal-QuickStep and Lotto Dstny and so lost time.
“Tough start to the race, tough start to the season,” Yates said afterwards.
“We had a bit of bad luck right at the beginning with some guys getting caught in crashes. Then in the end, 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.”
Yates tried to see the positive side to the day with an ironic laugh when it was suggested it could have been worse.
He can now only hope for a better performance in Tuesday’s 17.3km team time trial around Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi and then on the two mountain finishes that will ultimately decide the overall winner.
“The TTT tomorrow, hopefully we can take some time back,” he said.
“We’ll take it day by day – we’ll take some time tomorrow and in the coming stages. We won’t stop until the final stage.”
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