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The German sprinter manages to stay near the front in the windy finale and launches an impressive sprint to take a convincing win on the second stage while Cavendish is baldy positioned and finished outside the top 10

Photo: Sirotti










06.02.2014 @ 12:05 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Marcel Kittel (Garmin-Sharp) won the highly anticipated first battle against Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) when he emerged as the strongest in the final dash to the line on the second stage of the Dubai Tour. The German stayed calm in the hectic and windy finale and managed to stay well-positioned in the carnage before launching a powerful sprint to take his first UCI win of the season while Taylor Phinney (BMC) did an impressive sprint to take 3rd and extend his overall lead.


Prior to the Dubai Tour, much of the talk had been focused on the expected first big sprint battles between Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish and today the show finally kicked off when the flat second stage in Dubai ended in the expected bunch sprint. As it was the case on most occasions in last year's Tour de France, Kittel emerged as the strongest as he took a convincing win.


The sprint took place on the Atlantis island where a very hard crosswind was blowing in the final 5km of the stage and this wreaked havoc on the lead-out trains, with both Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Giant-Shimano hitting the front too early. While Cavendish stayed lead-out men Mark Renshaw and Alessandro Petacchi, Kittel maneuvered the final kilometres on his own.


That proved to be a wise decision as Cavendish found himself boxed in and never got the chance to sprint, finishing outside the top 10. As opposed to this, Kittel was well-positioned on race leader Taylor Phinney's wheel and then the American opened a long sprint, the Giant-Shimano captain was in the perfect place.


Kittel powered down the finishing straight and out daylight between him and Phinney while Peter Sagan (Cannondale) just managed to pass the race leader to take 2nd. However, Phinney held onto 3rd and so scored a bonus second.


With the bonus, Phinney even extended his overall lead over teammate Stephen Cummings slightly and he now founds himself 15 seconds ahead of the Brit. As he also holds the points, intermediate, and youth jerseys, he remains in complete control of the inaugural edition of the race.


Phinney faces his hardest challenge on tomorrow's third stage which leaves Dubai and heads into the desert. Two late climbs are expected to produce a slight selection but the final 7.1km are mostly downhill and it is hard to imagine that the stage will not end in some kind of sprint finish.


A flat stage

After yesterday's opening prologue, the inaugural Dubai Tour continued with a 122km stage that visited some of the greatest sports facilities in Dubai. However, the stage looked a bit like a criterium and with a completely flat profile, the stage was expected to be decided in a bunch sprint.


Several riders were eager to get involved in the early action but after a few kilometres, a trio managed to escape from the peloton. Veteran Francisco Mancebo was keen to show off the colours of his new Skydive Dubai team and he was joined by two youngsters from other continental teams, Diogo Nunes (Banco BIC) and Willie Smit (Vini Fantini).


Zabel and Lander lead the peloton

The trio managed to build up a gap that saw the take centre stage for most of the race. Behind, it was the BMC team who took control and they were eager to keep the break with a short distance, using youngsters Rick Zabel and Sebastian Lander to set the pace for most of the day.


Up ahead, Smit beat his rivals in both the intermediate sprints to score 2 bonus seconds and 16 points for the points classification. Their break was, however, doomed as they only had a 2.40 gap with 70km to go.


A calm stage

Lander and Zabel kept it around that mark for most of the stage while many riders were happy to realize that the feared wind did not come into play. Instead, they had plenty of time to chat with their colleagues while BMC did the hard work on the front.


With 40km to go, the gap dropped below the 2-minute mark and the big teams now started to move to the front. However, it was still BMC who led the main group as they were now approaching the sea and downtown Dubai.


The break splits up

Up ahead, Nunes lost contact with his companions when 27km still remained and he was quickly swallowed up by the peloton. At the same time, Thor Hushovd who was expected to be the BMC sprinter on the stage, had an unfortunate puncture and as his team had enough to do to keep Phinney safe, he had to chase back on his own.


The Norwegian managed to get back on with 20km to go when the gap was down to less than a minute. Zabel had now used up his last bit of energy while Lander was taking one final big turn on the front.


Mancebo gets clear on his own

With 16km to go, Mancebo showed his experience when he took a shortcut in a roundabout while Smit went the long way. The young South African never managed to rejoin the Spaniard and was quickly swallowed up.


Mancebo continued on his own for a few more kilometres but as the big teams were now battling for the front positions in the peloton, he never had a chance. Omega Pharma-Quick Step hit the front, with Martin Velits, Julien Vermote and Wout Poels swapping turns on the front.


Mancebo is caught

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) decided to do some solid training and took a big turn on the front to keep his GC rider Adriano Malori in a good position, just as the peloton caught Mancebo with 10.7km to go. Then it was Giant-Shimano to take control, with Chinese Cheng Ji taking a long turn.


Heading onto the Atlantis island, Omega Pharma-Quick Step found back to the front but they screwed it up in a U-turn, allowing Giant-Shimano to take over. The two teams battled for position but it appeared as though the Belgian team was the strongest when Nikolas Maes took control with 2km to go.


De Kort leads the peloton under the flamme rouge

However, Cavendish could see his team lose the front when they passed the flamme rouge as it was Kittel's teammate Koen De Kort who ramped up the pace. However, he was passed by Fabian Cancellara (Trek) who stormed ahead with teammate Giacomo Nizzolo on his wheel.


When Cancellara faded, Phinney opened a long sprint and went head-to-head with Nizzolo. However, Kittel had been well-placed on the American's wheel and had no trouble coming around while Sagan just pipped Phinney for 2nd on the line.




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