Dutch rider Mathieu Van der Poel came out on top in a wind-affected first stage of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Tour as the 2021 International Cycling Union (UCI) World Tour season got underway.
Van der Poel is on a high after winning his fourth UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships title three weeks ago.
And the Alpecin-Fenix cyclist transferred his form on to the road as he got his quest for the title off to the perfect start.
Crosswinds caused problems for many riders but Van der Poel held it together before doing enough to win a small bunch sprint to the line in Al Mirfa.
The 26-year-old finished the 176-kilometre stage in a winning time of 3hr 45min 47sec.
"I said I was coming here as a lead-out man but today I had good legs from the beginning," said Van der Poel.
"I was able to catch the group that went away after the first intermediate sprint and the wind made the race very hard, which played in my favour.
"I finished it off in the sprint but I didn’t expect this win at all.
"It means a lot to me to start my road season the same way I finished my cyclo-cross season."
Dutch rider David Dekker of Jumbo-Visma finished second, with Denmark's Michael Mørkøv of Decuninck-Quick-Step coming third.
The third edition of the seven-stage UAE Tour is scheduled to run until February 27.
Tomorrow is set to see riders compete in an individual time trial in Al Hudayriat Island.
The UAE Tour is also the first race of the 2021 UCI WorldTour season.
The UCI held a video conference with organisers, teams and riders to discuss the state of this campaign held against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The participants hailed the fact that the 2021 road season has started, and that several high-level events are taking place thanks to the implementation and respect of extremely strict and effective sanitary protocols," said the UCI in a statement.
The UCI also confirmed it was looking to reschedule 24 of the 38 men’s and women’s events that had been cancelled this year.
"The UCI will review the requests of these organisers in close collaboration with the different parties concerned," the statement added.
"It will set the new dates with a view to the overall coherence of the calendar and in the general interest of cycling, then will communicate its decisions by the end of March at the latest."