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The German sprinter takes a dominant win in the final sprint in front of the Burj Khalifa while Cavendish is taken out by a mechanical; Phinney finishes safely in the bunch to take home his first big stage race win

Photo: Sirotti

ANDREA GUARDINI

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DUBAI TOUR

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LASSE NORMAN HANSEN

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MARCEL KITTEL

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MARK RENSHAW

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STEPHEN CUMMINGS

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TAYLOR PHINNEY

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TEAM SUNWEB

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08.02.2014 @ 13:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) made it a clean sweep of the road stages in the inaugural Dubai Tour when he took a very convincing win on the final stage of the race. As expected, the race came down to a big bunch sprint in front of Burj Khalifa and Kittel had no trouble holding off Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who took over sprinting duties when Mark Cavendish was ruled out by a mechanical, while Taylor Phinney (BMC) enjoyed a safe day in the saddle to take home the first big stage race victory of his young career.

 

Marcel Kittel has got his season off to the best possible start, dominating the sprints in the inaugural Dubai Tour which ended today. In the flat circuit race in downtown Dubai, the German was in a class of his own when it all came down to a big bunch sprint and he took his third consecutive win to make it a clean sweep of the road stages in the Arabian race.

 

Kittel stayed well-protected by his Giant-Shimano teammates for the entire stage that was held on the scenic seafront in Dubai and his team positioned itself well for the finish when the pace ramped up at the end. However, they had a short moment of panic when Kittel lost the wheel of his lead-out man Tom Veelers with 2km to go and suddenly Giant-Shimano train was nowhere to be seen.

 

Veelers did a fantastic job to bring Kittel back into position and from there the well-drilled lead-out train did its job. Koen De Kort hit the front inside the final kilometre but as he had gone too early, Kittel showed his experience by allowing Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to get onto the wheel of his lead-out man.

 

At that time, Petacchi's plans had been completely destroyed as a mechanical had taken Mark Cavendish out of contention. Instead, Petacchi ended up giving Kittel the perfect lead-out and when the German opened his sprint, no one had any match to his terrific speed.

 

Mark Renshaw had taken over sprinting duties from Cavendish and as he had won the battle for Kittel's wheel, he managed to stay there all the way to the finish to take 2nd. Andrea Guardini (Astana) came very fast at the end to complete the podium, narrowly edging out Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida).

 

Taylor Phinney enjoyed a safe day and was always protected by his BMC teammates, allowing him to finish comfortably in the bunch to seal the first big stage race win of his career. He beat teammate Stephen Cummings by 15 seconds and Lasse Norman Hansen (Garmin-Sharp) by 17 seconds after having won the opening time trial.

 

The only change in the top 10 came due to a solo crash for Peter Sagan (Cannondale). Luckily, the Slovakian was unhurt but as it happened outside the final 3km, he dropped out of GC contention, allowing Dylan van Baarle (Garmin-Sharp) to take a top 10 result in his first race as a professional.

 

The block of racing in the Middle East continues tomorrow with the first stage of the Tour of Qatar which will have an almost completely different line-up, with Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and the riders from the Skydive Dubai team the only ones to do both races.

 

Starting at 12.15 CET, you can follow that stage on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

 

A ceremonial end to the race

The inaugural Dubai Tour came to an end with a 123km stage held in the old part of Dubai. The stage mostly consisted of several trips along the seafront and was completely flat. With the stage being largely ceremonial, everybody expected a big bunch sprint in front of the Burj Khalifa to end the first Middle East stage race of the season.

 

Early on, 4 riders managed to escape as Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai) - who was also in the break on stage 2 - Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo), Pier Paolo De Negri (Vini Fantini), and Keon-Woo Park (RTS) managed to build up a gap. However, the teams of the sprinters didn't want to risk anything today and so the gap was never allowed to grow too much.

 

After 25km, the front quartet were 1.20 ahead and the time check was exactly the same 20km further up the road. The teams of the sprinters appeared to be playing a bit with the escapees when the stage took an unexpected turnaround.

 

Banco BIC had missed the move and they were keen to see if they could put Diogo Nunes into the sprint jersey which was worn by young Willie Smit (Vini Fantini). As the peloton approached the first intermediate sprint which was located 51.5km from the finish, the Portuguese team put their entire squad on the front, setting a furious pace in an attempt to reel in the break.

 

The increased pace forced the breakaway to react and this was too much for Park who fell off the pace. The Korean was quickly swallowed up by the peloton, leaving just three riders in the front group.

 

Banco BIC was riding full gas but by the time they reached the sprint, the gap was still 35 seconds. Mancebo was allowed to take maximum points uncontested while Smit beat Nunes in the sprint for 4th.

 

Banco BIC still hasn't given up hope as there was still one more sprint up for grabs and so they continued their fierce tempo for a few more kilometres. In the end, they ran out of power though, allowing the peloton to take a small breather.

 

With the gap back up to 1.20, BMC and Giant-Shimano started to chase again, with Rick Zabel, Sebastian Lander, Klaas Lodewyck (all BMC) and Cheng Ji (Giant-Shimano) doing the hard work. They brought the gap down to less than a minute in just a few kilometres and from there it was a waiting game as the advantage yo-yoed up and down between 0.30 and 1.20.

 

With 30km to go, Cavendish showed that he still hadn't given up hope of a stage win when he asked his teammate Wout Poels to join the hard-working chasers. At this point, Lander had finished his job for today but BMC had also committed Yannick Eijssen to the work.

 

When the riders approached the final intermediate sprint, 23.5km from the finish, Vini Fantini and Banco BIC started to move up while up ahead, Mancebo manage to convince Smit's teammate De Negri not to contest the sprint. The veteran Spaniard was again allowed to take maximum points uncontested.

 

Behind, it was a real sprint between the full lead-out trains of Vini Fantini and Banco BIC and this time Nunes was strong enough to hold off Smit. This was enough for Smit to take a convincing win in the sprints competition while Mancebo moved into 2nd ahead of Nunes.

 

The increased pace had brought the gap down to 30 seconds and when the dust had settled, Poels, Ji, Eijssen, Zabel and Lodewyck were back on the front, tapping out a solid tempo. There wasn't much stress in the peloton as the wide roads meant that there was plenty of time to move to the front.

 

Inside the final 15km, the teams started to organize their lead-out trains and the BMC riders started to get swamped. This automatically brought the pace up and with 13km to go, Zabel took one final turn that ended the day for the breakaway.

 

Poels and Lodewyck set the pace for a few more kilometres but they had all the big lead-out trains lined up behind them. With 7km to go, Poels took one final turn before ending his day and then it was all left to the sprint trains.

 

Giant-Shimano briefly hit the front with Ji but with 5km to go, it was Astana who strung out the peloton. Alessandro Vanotti and Evan Huffman swapped turns on the front but got a bit of a breather when Nelson Oliveira took a huge turn for Lampre-Merida.

 

At this moment, disaster struck for Sagan as he went down in a solo crash just 4km from the finish. Luckily unhurt, the frustrated Slovakian threw his bike into the barrier, having lost both the change for a stage win and an overall top 10 result.

 

Vincenzo Nibali decided to show himself in the race before its end when he strung things out with a massive turn on the front. Cannondale had changed plans and were now working for Ratto and so hit the front with Marco Marcato, Fabio Sabatini and their protected sprinter.

 

Giant-Shimano had briefly disappeared from the front end of the peloton but when they approached the flamme rouge, they were suddenly back on the wheel of the Cannondale riders. At the same time, Cavendish had a mechanical and had to stop pedaling, losing all hopes of a win.

 

His teammates apparently didn't know and so Tony Martin strung things out but it was Kittel's lead-out man Koen De Kort who ramped up the pace inside the final kilometre. Kittel had allowed Petacchi to take De Kort's wheel and so the Italian ended up giving his rival sprinter the perfect lead-out, with Kittel taking a very convincing third win in a row.

 

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