Strong crosswinds throughout the 176km stage from Al Ruwais to Al Mirfa played havoc with the peloton.
Ultimately, the decisive split saw 25 riders break clear to fight out the stage’s honours.
With several sprinters caught napping, it was left to Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) to have the final say when he edged Jumbo-Visma’s David Dekker and Michael Morkov (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) over the line.
Van der Poel, who was recently crowned UCI cyclo-cross world champion in Ostend, Belgium, will wear the leader’s red jersey in stage two.
The peloton, with a number of big-name sprinters and GC contenders, finished over eight minutes behind Van der Poel.
“I said I was coming here as a lead-out man, but today I had good legs from the beginning,” Van der Poel said.
“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,” a thrilled Van der Poel said after winning.
Monday’s stage will see the riders tackle a flat 12km individual time-trial around Al Hudayriyat Island.
The seven-stage race will conclude on February 27.
|1||Mathieu van der Poel||NED||3:45:47|
|58||Stefan de Bod||RSA||+8:29|
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) February 21, 2021