Germany’s Pascal Ackermann sprinted to victory on the first stage of the UAE Tour at Dubai Silicon Oasis, as Britain’s Chris Froome made his return to racing.
The pre-race focus had been on Froome as the four-time Tour de France winner steps up his comeback from a career-threatening crash last year.
Froome suffered multiple serious injuries after crashing at 55 kilometres per hour during a practice ride before stage four of the Critérium du Dauphiné in France in June.
Injuries included a fractured right femur, a broken hip, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs.
The Briton was not expected to feature heavily on the opening day, with the 148km stage from The Pointe at Palm Jumeirah to Dubai Silicon Oasis expected to conclude in a sprint finish.
A four rider breakaway of Russia’s Nikolay Cherkasov, Serbia’s Veljko Stojnic and Italians Cristian Scaroni and Leonardo Tortomasi sought to defy expectations.
The quartet had built a lead of nearly three minutes, but their advantage was quickly reduced as teams worked to set up their sprinters for the finish.
A chaotic sprint finish saw Ackermann emerge from the pack to clinch victory in a time of 3 hours, 29min and 19sec.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider finished clear of Australia’s Caleb Ewan and France’s Rudy Barbier.
“I'm super happy with this victory because almost all the top sprinters are here and I wasn't sure if my shape was good enough to beat them all,” Ackermann said.
“Now I know that my shape is good and I can take it easy the next few days.
“It was a hectic sprint in which I was jumping from one guy's wheel to another one.
“I took my chance at the right time.”
The result saw Ackermann take the first leader’s red jersey of the race.
There was disappointment for Colombia’s Fernando Gaviria, Britain’s Mark Cavendish and Sam Bennett, who found themselves out of position and unable to contest the first bunch sprint of the race.
The second stage of the International Cycling Union (UCI) WorldTour event will see riders travel 168km from Hatta to Hatta Dam tomorrow.
The UAE Tour was formed last year after the decision to merge the existing Dubai Tour and Abu Dhabi Tour events.