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Ackermann lands early blow at UAE Tour’s heavyweight sprint battle

German eager to team up with Sagan at Giro d’Italia as Bora-Hansgrohe look to rack up the wins.

Pascal Ackermann struck an early blow in the fight for sprinter bragging rights Sunday, roaring home to victory in UAE Tour’s opening stage to Dubai Silicon Oasis.

The Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter started the UAE Tour among a startlist that reads like a who’s who of fast men, but wasn’t the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue for the stage victory. While all eyes and expectations were on Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) to notch the first win of the race, Ackermann showed that he was the one to be watching and he came from several wheels down to win the opening stage with plenty of room to spare.

Ewan placed second having come up to the front too late, Groenewegen was left disappointed with fourth, while Benett never had the opportunity to open his sprint.

“Wow! I’m still a little bit speechless about this victory,” Ackermann said. “All the big sprinter names are present and coming here I wasn’t sure I had the shape to win.”

Ackermann took 13 WorldTour victories last year, and is looking to rack up the podium time again in 2020, turning to the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España in the hunt for wins. This allows his team to focus their efforts on Emanuel Buchmann’s quest for Tour de France general classification success.

“We want to have the most victories in the year and we want to try and win as much as a possible,” said the 26-year-old after the stage yesterday. “At the Tour de France this year, there are just three possibilities for the sprinters, so we sat together as a team and thought that if we go to the Giro and the Vuelta then we have around ten to 15 possibilities for the sprints. So we’re going to try for that this year.”

Missing out on the Tour means Ackermann won’t be racing in France against the likes of Bennett and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), who also races this week, but the Italian and Spanish races will still pit him against the likes of Groenewegen, Ewan, and a raft of sprint talent.

Ackermann will line up alongside teammate Peter Sagan at the Giro, who starts the race for the first time in his career. The German isn’t worried about lining up alongside the prolific green jersey winner, but instead views the situation favorably.

Pascal Ackermann
Peter Sagan and Pascal Ackermann of Team Bora-Hansgrohe during the 61st E3 Harelbeke 2018. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

“We have two opportunities at the Giro with me and Peter, and having two options in the team is always good for us. We can maybe make a few surprises,” he said.

“We have the same goal and we want to win together. In the last year we tried to race together and it was always good. We’re good friends and we can work together.”

Although there’s still over two months until the Giro rolls out of Budapest, striking up an early win in the UAE against a startlist that also includes grand tour sprinters Mark Cavendish (Bahrain Merida) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama FDJ) is key for the bragging rights in the muscle and grustle of a bunch sprint.

“I think that it was a big surprise for the others sprinters,” said Ackermann of his powerful sprint Sunday. “I think that with the result that we can say that we got it right.”

“Winning the first sprint has been a big step for my head. It gave me a lot of confidence. We can now take it a bit easier, but we will, of course, try our best to win more stages.”

Ackermann has plenty more opportunities to add to his tally as he looks to better last season’s 13 WorldTour wins. An uphill finish atop Hatta Dam Monday proved too challenging for him, but stage 4’s pan-flat finish in Dubai, Wednesday, gives him his next chance.