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The German sprinter survives the climbs in the desert and stays calmly on Sagan's wheel in the finale before launching a powerful sprint to take another convincing win; Phinney comfortably defends the lead

Photo: Team Giant-Shimano
















07.02.2014 @ 12:37 Posted by Adam Aisen

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) again underlined that he has improved his climbing massively when he won today's queen stage of the Dubai Tour. The German survived the fierce pace set by Movistar on the final climb and stayed calm in a hectic finale before coming off Peter Sagan's wheel to take his second consecutive victory while Taylor Phinney (BMC) responded to the many attacks and comfortable defended his overall lead.


When the riders rolled out for the queen stage of the Dubai Tour, much of the talk was centered around the sprinters and their chances of overcoming the final 11% climb that featured with just 7km to go. In the past, Marcel Kittel would have been one of the first to get dropped but in last year's Tour de France he proved that he has improved his climbing significantly.


Today he again underlined this fact when he took a very impressive win on the queen stage. Despite a fierce pace set by Movistar and Cannondale on the final climb and several attacks launched by climbers like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Bob Jungels (Trek) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), he managed to keep up with the peloton and was still in contention when they sped down towards the finish in Hatta.


Kittel was almost isolated in the group and decided to stay on Peter Sagan's wheel in the hectic finale. Costa launched a late attack that saw him stay clear until the flamme rouge but with Mark Cavendish having also made the selection, it was Omega Pharma-Quick Step who made sure that things came back together.


Sagan and Kittel were positioned far back in the group with 500m to go when Sebastian Langeveld launched the sprint for his Garmin-Sharp teammate Dylan Van Baarle. However, Sagan moved up in just the right time and delivered his big rival Kittel perfectly. When the German opened up his massive power, no one was even close to him and he easily held off Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) and Sagan to take his second consecutive win. Cavendish never featured in the sprint.


Taylor Phinney was always attentive and stayed near the front on the climbs, having no trouble responding to the many attacks. Despite not featuring in the top 10 of the stage, he comfortably defended his 15-second lead over teammate Stephen Cummings with just one more stage to go.


That stage is held on a 123km route held in downtown Dubai and is more like a criterium than a real road stage. A big sprint is expected, with Kittel being the big favourite to make it three in a row.


The queen stage

For the only time during the 4-day race, the riders left Dubai to head into the desert for the 3rd stage of the race which was widely described as the queen stage. Without the protection provided by the Dubai skyscrapers, the wind could potentially split things up but the main challenges were the two late climbs that came inside the final 40km of the stage, with the final one being passed just 7.1km from the finish.


There was no big battle to get into the day's early break and it didn't take long for 6 riders to escape. Two of yesterday's escapees, Diogo Nunes (Banco BIC) and Willie Smit (Vini Fantini) were again part of the action and they were joined by Nunes' teammate Valter Pereira, Alexander Pliuschin (Skydive Dubai), Evan Huffman (Astana) and Ruslan Karimov (RCS).


BMC lead the chase

The sextet worked well together to build up a solid gap while Phinney's BMC team took the responsibility to lead the chase in the peloton. With 100km to go, the gap was 5.45 while Sebastian Lander, Rick Zabel, and Klaas Lodewyck did the early chase work in the main group.


With 50km to go, the gap had come down to 3.25 and by now the Trek team had decided to lend BMC a hand. The three BMC riders were assisted by Fabio Silvestre who tried to set his teammate Giacomo Nizzolo up for a sprint win.


Smit sprints for points

Smit had already won the first intermediate sprint to take over the lead in the sprints classification and when the break approached the second one with 41.8km to go, he easily beat Nunes to extend his lead even further. As they approached the sprint, Karimov fell off the pace on a small climb while Pereira could not manage the acceleration that came due to the sprint.


Nunes had used his final bit of energy for the sprint so when the first of the two final climbs started moments later, he was the third rider to drop off, leaving just Huffman, Pliuschin, and Smit to continue their efforts. Karimov was quickly picked up by the peloton and a little later the Banco BIC duo of Pereira and Nunes followed.


Pliuschin attacks

On the climb Pliuschin decided to attack and while Huffman had no response at all, Smit dug deep to just manage to regain contact with the Skydive duo. They crested the summit as the leaders of the race while Lander had now disappeared from the front of the peloton.


The two escapees did a fantastic job to keep the peloton at bay, with the main group only very slowly taking back time. With 26km to go, they were still 2.30 ahead.


Pliuschin the lone leader

With 23km to go, Pliuschin sensed that he was clearly the strongest and launched another attack. This time Smit didn't even bother trying to stay on his wheel, leaving just the Moldavian in the front. Meanwhile, Huffman was caught by the peloton in which the bigger teams were now starting to position themselves near the front.


Kittel suffered a mechanical but was quickly brought back to the peloton in time for the final climb to start. Lander had now returned to the front and the four chasers Lander, Silvestre, Lodewyck and Zabel were now using their last bit of energy, catching Smit in the process.


Pliuschin becomes a danger

However, Pliuschin now started to smell the victory as he was still 2 minutes ahead with 15km to go. When the climb started, however, he started to lose time at a much more rapid rate and only had 1.10 in hand with 11km to go.


When the climb started in earnest, Movistar hit the front, with Alex Dowsett taking a huge turn on the front. Trek also wanted a hard race and when the Brit finished his job, they put Kristof Vandewalle on the front.


Valverde sets up Malori

Valverde now upped the speed even further to set up the Movistar GC rider Adriano Malori up for an attack. Trek tried to chase but instead decided to send Bob Jungels off in pursuit.


Now Cannondale decided that it was time to tighten the screws to drop Sagan's faster rivals and Marco Marcato and Damiano Caruso took turns setting a fierce pace. Valverde, Sagan, Cummings, Filippo Pozzato (Lampre), Costa, Phinney, Peter Velits (BMC), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) were strung on their wheels as the peloton started to splinter. Pliuschin, Malori and Jungels were all quickly brought back.


Martin attacks

The Cannondale duo led the peloton over the top, with Sagan hitting the front on the descent. When the road again started to ascend for a small climb with 5km to go, however, it was Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who attacked.


The world TT champion was quickly passed by Valverde who launched a very powerful attack. He opened a big gap while Rory Sutherland (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Sagan set off in pursuit.


Martin insists

The duo caught Valverde while Martin, Costa, Phinney, Cummings and Poels followed suit a little later. They had the peloton in tow and with less than 5km to go, it was back together.


Martin launched another unsuccessful attack and Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp) also made an ill-fated attempt as Phinney closed him down. Omega Pharma-Quick Step now knew that Cavendish had made the selection and so Poels and Martin started to set a hard pace.


Costa gets a gap

They couldn't prevent Costa from launching an attack with 2km to go and the world champion built up a solid gap. BMC started to chase with Yannick Eijssen doing the work but when both the American team and Omega Pharma-Quick Step ran out of power, the peloton slowed down.


Luca Paolini (Katusha) launched an attack but had the entire peloton in tow when he closed the gap to Costa just after the passage of the flamme rouge. Cummings now took the responsibility to set a hard pace before being overtaken by Martin.


It was, however, Langeveld who launched the sprint for Van Baarle and at that point it seemed that the sprinters were too far back. Sagan managed to move up though and gave Kittel the perfect platform to take his second consecutive win.




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