Kittel beats Cavendish in the first stage of Dubai Tour
Marcel Kittel got his career as an Etixx-QuickStep rider off to the best possible start when he stomed to victory in his first race in his new colours on the first stage of the Dubai Tour. After a splendid lead-out from his new teammates, he started his sprint from the front and easily held off archrival Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) to claim both the stage win and the leader’s jersey in the third edition of the race.
The 2015 season was a real disaster for Marcel Kittel who struggled with a combination of illness and lack of motivation throughout the year. After he won the People’s Choice Classic in his first outing, he only managed to pick one UCI win all year, the first stage of the Tour de Pologne, and he recorded an impressive number of DNFs in the few races that he did.
It all came to a sad conclusion as he fell out with his Giant-Alpecin team and the parties agreed to end the contract prematurely. Instead, he moved to Etixx-QuickStep and rumours have been that he has been extremely motivated to get back on track right from the start of 2016.
Those rumours were confirmed in the most impressive fashion as he looked like his former self when he stormed to victory in the first stage of the Dubai Tour, his first race of the year. After a splendid lead-out from his new teammates, no one even came close to passing the German who had plenty of time to celebrate a long-awaited victory.
The mostly flat stage was characterized by a tailwind which made the race less stressful and the final escapee, Diego Rubio (Al Nasr), was brought back just after the start of the first of the two laps of the 6.6km finishing circuit. That made things a lot calmer after a 6-rider break had briefly created some chaos and a very hectic chase.
Astana set the pace with Laurens De Vreese and Lieuwe Westra while the sprint teams were gathering behind but there was no big stress on the non-technical and very wide road in Fujeirah. The WIGGINS team came to the fore to set the pace with five riders, including Bradley Wiggins, and they remained in control for the duration of the first lap.
With 4km to go, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) tried to deny the sprinters the glory by launching a solo attack but Wiggins kept him firmly under control. Alex Dowsett took a turn for Movistar and it was Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana) who brought Gilbert back with 3.2km to go.
It was now a big fight for position between the big trains as Sky and Etixx-QuickStep were lined out on the front. Lukasz Wisniowski was first in line for the Belgians before Tony Martin took over.
The German was unable to respond when Trek powered through, with Fabian Cancellara taking a huge turn, followed by four of his teammates, with Giacomo Nizzolo at the back of the train. Marco Coledan was next and then it was left to Jasper Stuyven, Boy van Poppel and Nizzolo to finish it off.
Etixx-QuickStep turned out to have more power as Nikolas Maes sprinted past the Trek riders and delivered Fabio Sabatini and Kittel on the front. The Italian did the perfect lead-out and when the German started his sprint from the first position, no one even tried to pass him, with Nizzolo, Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Andrea Palini (Skydive) having fought hard for his wheel. Mark Cavendish had to start his sprint from further back and finished fast to claim second while Nizzolo took third.
There was a split in the finale which meant that many overall contenders lost a few seconds. Kittel is of course the first leader of the race with a four-second advantage over Cavendish. Kittel is also the first leader of the points competition while Soufiane Haddi (Skydive) takes the sprints jersey and white jersey for best young rider.
He will try to defend that position in tomorrow’s second stage which is another flat affair. The stage takes place in the city of Dubai and is completely flat before it all comes to an exciting conclusion on the spectacular Palm Jumeirah island where a big bunch sprint and windy conditions are expected.
Dubai Tour – stage 1 results: