Dubai - Chris Froome said it "felt good to be a bike racer again" after he returned to competitive cycling for the first time in eight months as German Pascal Ackermann sprinted to an opening-stage victory on the UAE Tour on Sunday.
It was seven-time Grand Tour winner Froome's first competitive stage since suffering numerous injuries in a high-speed crash into a wall while training at the Criterium du Dauphine last June.
He finished safely in the pack after the 148km ride around Dubai.
"It feels good, it feels really good. It's a great feeling to be back in the bunch and there were so many riders coming up to me and saying it was good to see me back," the Briton told cyclingnews.com.
"I showed that it was possible to come back after so long. It's still a way to go until I'm back to the level I was at but the first feelings were really good.
"It felt good to just have a race number on, have my elbows out again, and be fighting in the bunch. It feels good to be a bike racer again."
Ackermann started his sprint 300 metres out and that decision was vindicated as he held off Caleb Ewan to take his second win of the year.
The race also marks the first time Israeli team Israel Start-Up Nation have competed in the United Arab Emirates in the latest overture between the two countries.
"The participation in this race by our Israeli team in a Middle Eastern nation is emblematic of how cycling can be a force for diplomatic openness and progress," their co-owner Sylvan Adams said.
Like all Arab countries, except for Jordan and Egypt, the UAE has no official relations with Israel.
Monday's second stage is a hilly 168km ride from Hatta to Hatta Dam.
General classification after the first stage of the UAE Tour on Sunday:
1. Pascal Ackermann (ALL/BOR), 148 km in 3h 29min 09sec, 2. Caleb Ewan (AUS/LOT) 4sec, 3. Veljko Stojnic (SRB/Vini Zabu KTM) 5sec, 4. Rudy Barbier (FRA/ISR), 6sec, 5. Leonardo Tortomasi (ITA/THR) same time, 6. Nikolai Cherkasov (RUS/GAZ) 7sec, 7. Dylan Groenewegen (NED/JUM) 10sec, 8. Luka Mezgec (SLO/MIT) s.t., 9. Alberto Dainese (ITA/SUN) s.t., 10. Jakub Mareczko (ITA/CCC) s.t.
18. Mark Cavendish (GBR/TBM) at 10sec, 56. Adam Yates (GBR/MIT) s.t., 116. Chris Froome (GBR/INS) s.t.