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Team Emirates’ Pogacar grabs lead, Ganna claims second stage

Italy’s Filippo Ganna won Monday’s 13km individual time trial on the second stage of the UAE Tour as Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar took over the race lead.

Ineos rider Ganna, the reigning time trial world champion, clocked 13min 56sec on the circuit around Al Hudayriyat Island, finishing 14sec clear of Switzerland’s Stefan Bissegger.

“I am really happy with this result, achieved in this amazing Rainbow Jersey. Every ITT is a different race, it is never easy. Some people think that because I am the World Champion, ITTs are easy for me, but it’s not like this, every new race is a new test,” said Ganna.

“Today I did a good performance, the next time I’ll be doing one will be at Tirreno-Adriatico,” he added.

Pogacar was fourth on the day and inherited the leader’s red jersey vacated by Mathieu van der Poel following Alpecin-Fenix’s decision to withdraw from the race after a member of the team’s staff tested positive for Covid-19.

It was also a solid performance from Pogacar’s team-mate Mikkel Bjerg who made the podium in third place, finishing 21 seconds behind Ganna, who claimed his eighth straight time trial victory.

Occupying the next two spots behind Pogacar in the General Classification are Deceuninck-Quickstep’s pair Joao Almeida and Mattia Cattaneo, followed by Jumbo-Visma’s Chris Harper and the defending champion Adam Yates of Ineos Grenadiers.

Pogacar holds a six-second lead over Almeida in the GC. Matteo is a further 18 seconds down in third while Yates has 39 seconds to make up in fifth in the only World Tour race in the Middle East.

“I did not start with any particular result in my mind, I just wanted to go as fast and as good as I could and I think I managed to do that,” said Pogacar.

“I knew before the time trial that my shape is good at the moment and in the end, I did a really good time trial and I’m super happy with the result. Having the leader’s jersey is very good for us.

“We can go into the upcoming stages with confidence. It was pan-flat today but I actually like that a lot. I train on the flat just as much as on the mountains. Sometimes I prefer the mountains but sometimes I also enjoy riding on the flat, especially in time trials, which is a very nice discipline. I really like to race on the TT bike.

“I’m in a good position now with five stages to go, but anything can happen, and tomorrow we already have the hardest finish for this Tour at Jabel Hafeet,” he added.

Earlier, the Alpecin-Fenix cycling team withdrew from the UAE Tour after a staff member tested positive following the opening stage of the seven-day race.

Dutch rider van der Poel won Sunday’s first stage for Alpecin-Felix in a sprint finish as cycling’s first major race of the season got under way in Abu Dhabi.

“Alpecin-Fenix, in agreement with the UAE Tour organiser, have decided to withdraw its team from the race, in order to safeguard the race bubble and ensure the safe continuation of the race,” the team said in a statement.

“The team was notified of one positive result of a member of its staff from the round of tests conducted on Sunday evening, 21st of February.”

“Upon receiving the results, the person immediately went into isolation, and all those who came into contact with this person are self-isolating,” the statement added.

The race was cut short last year by a Covid-19 outbreak among the teams, making it one of the first international sports events to feel the effects of the pandemic.

Stringent measures are in place this year to prevent a recurrence, with staff and riders staying in separate hotels.

Tuesday’s third stage is a 162km run from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet and concludes with a summit finish.

Stage 3 is a classic mountain stage of the UAE Tour. Setting off near the Al Ain international airport, the peloton will follow a well-ridden route around Al Ain that takes in the sights (Al Ain Zoo, Al Qattara, Al Hili and the Al Ain Oasis) before arriving at the Green Mubazzarah park where the final climb of Jebel Hafeet begins. The 10km ascent will be the first big General Classification test for the riders. Two intermediate sprints: in Al Qattara (km 28.6) and Green Mubazzarah (km 152.5)

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