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After another textbook lead-out by Etixx-QuickStep, Kittel easily held off Viviani and Cavendish in the bunch sprint on the final stage of the Dubai Tour; the German also took the overall win ahead of Nizzolo and Lobato

Photo: ANSA - PERI / Dal Zennaro

DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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DUBAI TOUR

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ELIA VIVIANI

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GIACOMO NIZZOLO

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JUAN JOSE LOBATO

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MARCEL KITTEL

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MARK CAVENDISH

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06.02.2016 @ 12:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel got the start to his Etixx-QuickStep career that he had dreamed of as he took overall victory at his first race with the Belgian team by winning the final stage of the Dubai Tour. After another textbook lead-out by his teammates, he seemed to be at easy when he held off Elia Viviani (Sky) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) in the final dash to the line and that was enough to take the overall win with a 4-second advantage over Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) who could only manage sixth in the final sprint.

 

Two years ago Marcel Kittel started what was probably the best season of his career by dominating the sprints at the Dubai Tour. If the Arab race is an indication of what’s to come, the German will be unstoppable in 2016.

 

After his bad 2015 season, Kittel went into the race which was his first as an Etixx-QuickStep rider, with huge motivation and desire to return to the top step of the sprinting hierarchy and by winning the first stage, he immediately proved that he was back on track. However, what really caught the eye of the observers was his excellent performance in the queen stage where he battled gravity to finish 6th on the steep ramp at Hatta Dam.

 

Despite his good performance, Kittel still faced an uphill battle if he wanted to take overall victory in the race as he went into the final stage of the race. He trailed Giacomo Nizzolo by six seconds and as none of them scored bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints, a stage win would only be enough for overall victory if the Italian failed to finish on the podium.

 

Compared to last year, Kittel’s fortunes have totally changed as he could not have written a better script for the final stage. When it all came down to the expected bunch sprint, Etixx-QuickStep were in a class of his own and while Kittel easily won the sprint, Nizzolo got lost in the chaos and had to settle for sixth.

 

It was all back together with 11,5km to go when the scene was set for a big bunch sprint and it turned out that patience was the key. While their rival teams all stayed near the front, Etixx-QuickStep were far back and didn’t hit the front until the very finale.

 

First it was BMC that took control with Loic Vliegen and Manuel Senni before Trek took over with Gregory Rast and Stijn Devolder. The real battle started with 7km to go when Astana and Dimension Data went head-to-head in a battle between Dmitriy Gruzdev and Natnael Berhane.

 

The Kazakh came out on top and joined forces with Lieuwe Westra to set the pace. With 5km to go, Movistar and Tinkoff moved up next to them with Alex Dowsett and Manuele Boaro on the front and it were the Russians that took control.

 

Manuele Boaro took a huge turn that kept Tinkoff on the front while their rival trains battled for position behind. In fact, he stayed there until less than 3km remained when Sky, Movistar and Trek tried to pass them.

 

Movistar won the battle as they entered a tunnel with 2km to go and that’s where Etixx-QuickStep made their move. When they emerged from the dark, the Belgian team was on the front with Lukasz Wisniowski who swung off and left it to Matteo Trentin to set the pace.

 

Trek tried to pass the Belgians and it came down to a battle between Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara and it was the Swiss who came out on top. His teammate Marco Coledan led the peloton under the flamme rouge but he only had Jasper Stuyven on his wheel while Nizzolo and Boy van Poppel were much further back.

 

That made it easy for Etixx-QuickStep to hit the front with Nikolas Maes, Fabio Sabatini and Kittel. Stuyven tried to throw a spanner in their works but it was impossible. Kittel was given the perfect lead-out and when he launched his sprint, Elia Viviani and Mark Cavendish who had been just behind could barely hold onto his wheel and did not even try to pass him, crossing the line in the same order as they had when they started the sprint.

 

Nizzolo could only manage sixth and as he got 10 bonus seconds, Kittel took over all victory with a 4-second advantage over Nizzolo, with Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) 2 seconds further adrift in third. Silvan Dillier (BMC) and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) completed the top 5.

 

Kittel also won the points classification while Soufiane Haddi (Skydive Dubai) was the best young rider. Marcin Bialoblocki (ONE) won the sprints competition and Francisco Mancebo (Skydive) was the most aggressive rider. Movistar was the best team.

 

With the Dubai Tour done and dusted, the focus in the Middle East turns to the Tour of Qatar which runs from Monday to Friday. A few riders will travel from Dubai to Qatar but most of the field will be made up of riders that were not present in the UAE.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, it was back into completely flat terrain on the final stage which brought the riders over 137km from the traditional start at the Dubai International Marine Club to a spectacular finish in the Business District. Most of the stage took place in the city centre in what was a bit of a sightseeing trip and the roads were completely flat which meant that a bunch sprint was expected. There were two intermediate sprints with important bonus seconds along the way.

 

It was another fantastic day for a bike race when the riders gathered for the start in Dubai as there was bright sunshine and only little wind. All riders who finished yesterday were present as they headed out from Marine Club in Dubai.

 

Six riders gets clear

It didn’t take long for the early break to be formed as Sebastian Lander (ONE), Mark Christian (WIGGINS), Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Roy Curvers (Giant-Alpecin) and the Lampre-Merida pair of Rui Costa and Jan Polanc attacked almost as soon as the flag was dropped. At first, Trek-Segafredo were a bit reluctant to let them go and the escapees only had an advantage of 44 seconds after 20km of racing.

 

Finally, Trek decided to let the group go and allowed the gap to grow to a maximum of 3.15 with 95km to go. From there, they put Stijn Devolder, Fabian Cancellara, Yaroslav Popovych on Gregory Rast and that quartet kept the gap at around 3 minutes for a long time.

 

Trek in control

The atmosphere was relatively relaxed but with a strong 6-rider group that included Costa who was just 37 seconds behind on GC, the pace was fast. The riders averaged more than 48km/h during the first hour while the Trek quartet set the pace.

 

With 75km to go, the calm atmosphere as disrupted by a crash that brought down Nicolas Lefrancois (Novo Nordisk) and Branislau Samoilau (CCC) who were both forced to withdraw. Meanwhile, the Trek riders still kept the gap at 3 minutes.

 

Movistar and Etixx-QuickStep start to chase

With 57km to go, the escapees contested the first intermediate sprint where Polanc led Costa out for maximum points before crossing the line in second ahead of Curvers. At that point, Movistar arrived at the front as Giovanni Visconti and Marc Soler started to work with the Trek riders.

 

They briefly brought the gap down to 2.45 but as it again reached 3.00, Etixx-QuickStep had to react. With 46km to go, Iljo Keisse started to work for the Belgian team and that had a big effect. With 37km to go, the gap had been reduced to 2.25 and at this point Julien Vermote also started to work for Kittel’s team.

 

The gap comes down

Trek left it to the two Movistar and two Etixx-QuickStep riders to set the pace while Polanc led Costa out for the final intermediate sprint with 34km to go. The Portuguese was allowed to take maximum points while Curvers decided to go for second place, passing Polanc just before the line. The peloton crossed the line just 1.45 later.

 

The escapees were starting to tire and as they entered the final 25km, the gap had been brought down to 1.10. Meanwhile, the sprint teams had started to organize themselves in the front end of the peloton.

 

The break splits up

With 21km to go, the gap dropped to less than a minute and this allowed Soler to end his work. The peloton didn’t want to catch the break too early so they kept the gap at around 45 seconds for a few kilometres.

 

With 15km to, it was only 30 seconds and this prompted Costa to attack, the only consequence being that Polanc dropped off. Christian countered the move and he got clear in a solo break.

 

Visconti stopped his work but Vermote and Keisse continued to set the pace until Vliegen and Senni took over for BMC with 12km to go when the chasers were brought back. Just 500m later, it was also over for Christian and the scene was set for the bunch sprint.

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