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"I am very happy, and of course a big thanks to all my team, and we will try and keep the jersey tomorrow. Everyone knows the big names that are in contention here so I'm obviously very happy to beat them."

Photo: Sirotti


20.10.2016 @ 18:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A few days after finishing fifth at the Worlds, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) confirmed that he is in great form late in the season when he rode to a dominant victory in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Italian positioned himself perfectly behind Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin) and after a long sprint he easily held off John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) to take both the win and the first leader’s jersey.


We have gathered a few reactions.


Nizzolo: Everyone knows how many big sprinters I beat here

The blustery winds made for a sketchy ending to stage one in the Abu Dhabi Tour Thursday, a perfect scenario for Giacomo Nizzolo, one of the best positioning in unpredictable bunch finishes, and he easily held off John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) to take the win.


"This is the best way to start this race," smiled Nizzolo. "After the Worlds on Sunday I said let's go to Abu Dhabi and see if I can get one victory more, and we did it!


"There was the last real corner 1.2 kilometers to go and then a roundabout with 700 meters to go, and I asked the team to put me in a good position there. From the roundabout, I just managed by myself, and I started my sprint from 200-220 meters to go. I felt power, and I was confident to reach the line first, and that's how it went."


A four-man breakaway, leading from the early going, animated the final kilometers of the flat 147-kilometer race, holding over 2 minutes' advantage with 17 kilometers to go and sounding alarms in the pursuing peloton.


Not about to leave anything to chance, even with a stiff headwind facing the riders in the run-in, Trek-Segafredo added the fast legs of Niccolo Bonifazio to the chase, leaving Kiel Reijnen and Marco Coledan to help position Nizzolo in the finale.


"When I saw that the gap was so big and so close to the finish I decided to put another guy into helping with the chase," explained Nizzolo. "To have no doubts we decided to help pull, and in the end, it was the right choice. I am very happy, and of course a big thanks to all my team, and we will try and keep the jersey tomorrow.


"Everyone knows the big names that are in contention here so I'm obviously very happy to beat them. The temperature was quite high at the beginning of the race but coming from the World Championships, I was used to it, and after half way into the race, it was much better and not a problem for me.


"It means a lot for me to lead the Abu Dhabi Tour, especially after Sunday’s World Championships. A victory here is the best way to start. I asked my team to put me in a good place with 1km to go. At the roundabout 700m away from the line, I was well placed behind Giant-Alpecin and I managed by myself. I started my sprint with 200m to go. I don’t think I’m the fastest but we’ll try to defend the jersey tomorrow even though we’re here with a stagiaire and Niccolo Bonifazio who is not feeling very well."


Trek-Segafredo takes the red leader's jersey into stage two tomorrow, also projected to end in a bunch sprint.


In-form Degenkolb close to victory in Abu Dhabi

In the bunch sprint, John Degenkolb finished in second place.


Coach Mattias Reck said after the stage: “After 50km the advantage to the escapees reached six minutes and we decided to help the chase together with some other sprinters team. The stage was quite windy and the riders rode at a high pace, therefore it was not an easy day. In the end, it was a chaotic sprint finish, but overall we can be satisfied with the second place in this strong field.”


Cavendish admits mistake in first Abu Dhabi sprint

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka spent the day controlling the peloton with Jay Thomson and Mekseb Debesay tapping out the rhythm for the day. Coming into the finish, Youcef Reguigui then added some fresh fire power to the chase with 15km to go which ensured the break was caught at the 7km to go marker. It was then up to Bernie Eisel and Mark Renshaw to deliver Mark Cavendish to the line.


Eisel did a strong ride to keep Renshaw and Cavendish at the head of affairs from 5km to 2km to go, as the jostling for position took place behind the African Team. When Eisel pulled off Renshaw and Cavendish had to surf from train to train before Renshaw could make a move up the right. Nizzolo took the wheel of our Australian as Cavendish followed the Italian. Once Nizzolo jumped with 200m to go the line came quickly and the Manxman was not able to come around to challenge for the top spot, instead having to settle for 3rd place on the stage.


Sports director Rolf Aldag said:

“Obviously, our goal was to create a sprint finish for Mark Cavendish. We were fully committed to that and once the breakaway was gone we started riding with Mekseb and Jay, and they did a good job. They controlled things so that the break didn’t get too far ahead. In the final it was a bit tricky with a headwind from 5km to 1.2km to go, and then we missed out on placing Mark in a position from where he was able to win. We will talk to all the guys and analyse the finish later today but unfortunately after the hard work of the team, we just could not pull it off today in the sprint.”


"I was just too far back in the last corner. I tried to move up but there were riders all up the road, so I had to soft pedal behind them. It was my fault," Cavendish explained to Cyclingnews and CyclingWeekly.


"We're not a team who is willing to let a race slip away. So if it's not going to come back then we'll commit everyone. Maybe some teams are maybe here on holiday and they don't care if the break goes. The gap went up with 20km to go and they weren't easy guys to catch, they're strong guys. We put Youcef Reguigui up front, who was our third man but fortunately you could see the guys in the break were cooked."


Cort confirms potential in Abu Dhabi sprint

Double Vuelta a Espana stage winner Magnus Cort sprinted to fourth place against a world class field on the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour today, again serving notice of the 23-year-olds rising talent.


ORICA-BikeExchange teammates Jens Keukeleire and Michael Matthews came close to deciding the stage win themselves as they controlled a four-man breakaway for some 120kilometres before being caught seven kilometres from the line by the headwind assisted peloton.


Once the race came back together the bunch sprint seemed inevitable with Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) taking the stage win and Cort narrowly missing the podium in fourth place.


Sport director Laurenzo Lapage praised the efforts of the team and noted how the squad’s versatility came into play for the stage one finale.


“We performed very positively today and at this late stage of the season it’s great to see the guys so motivated,” said Lapage. “Michael (Matthews) and Jens (Keukeleire) rode well for 120kilometres in the break and came close to staying away to contest the win before Magnus stepped up for the sprint.


“Of course it’s hot and windy out here but the racing is pretty straightforward and the conditions are the same for everyone, but I think Michael and Jens will be feeling their effort tomorrow.


“Magnus (Cort) has really stepped to another level after his success in the Vuelta a Espana and he is brimming with self-confidence. We saw again today that he can compete with the world’s best and we are all happy with how the first stage went.


“Tomorrow is another flat sprint stage before a medium mountain stage on Saturday and we will be looking to get ourselves into the best possible position to contest the finale.”


After the finish line, the Black Jersey Jens Keukeleire, said: "It was a little bit of a surprise to have two Orica-BikeExchange riders in the breakaway. At the start, many riders were trying to go and I found myself at the front with Michael Matthews. It was in single file, so I told Michael ‘let’s give it a crack’ and it was only him and me who went away. Sure it wasn’t the plan today but luckily two more guys came across and helped us out. The last 60km were hard in the headwind, and unfortunately we didn’t make it to the finish."


Latham impresses in high-level sprint in Abu Dhabi

WIGGINS’ Chris Latham finished fifth.


“Intimidated? Not really,” he told CyclingWeekly. “I know I can get up there and beat them, and maybe even win because it’s the last race of the season for a lot of people, so maybe their switched off a bit. But I’m fully switched on!”


Strong Worlds performance moves Kolar into protected role in Abu Dhabi

The expected bunch sprint on stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour eventually unfolded after a strong fight to stay away from the day's breakaway, and in the fast finish it was Michael Kolar who came through quickest for Tinkoff, sprinting to sixth.


Coming into the final kilometre on the wheel of Juraj Sagan, Kolar was well positioned and held his own against some of the fastest sprinters in the peloton, while GC riders Alberto Contador and Jesper Hansen stayed safe behind in the wheels.


After the stage, Kolar told a bit more about his ride at the finish: “Juraj did a good job in bringing me up in the last kilometre, and Erik [Baska] was also helping for the sprint while the GC guys were taking cover. Tactically it was done perfectly but I guess I lacked a bit of speed at the end.”


Sport Director at the race, Tristan Hoffman added: “Today it looked like it would always be a bunch sprint we saw the usual situation with an early break then the fight for the sprint at the end. At the Worlds we saw that Michael did a great job for Peter Sagan so we gave him the opportunity to go for the sprint today. He’s riding well and did a good sprint to take sixth – there are some very fast guys here.


“Tomorrow we will probably see the same situation and we will ride for Michael again in the sprint, then on Saturday we have the main stage for the GC riders.”


Strong Drucker frustrated by result in Abu Dhabi opener

Jempy Drucker sprinted to ninth place on the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour which saw the peloton tackle a fast and hot 147km of flat terrain in the desert.


A battle of the sprinters’ lead outs ensued which saw Drucker’s teammates do a good job of positioning him until he was blocked in the final kilometers. Drucker chased back to finish in the top ten with two more sprint stages to come.


Jempy Drucker said: 


“The guys did a good job especially in the final 5km. They kept me up the front and actually it wasn’t so hectic for me except for into the last kilometer with 600m to go I was in Greg Van Avermaet’s wheel and we got passed from everywhere and we were blocked a bit. There’s where we lost the good position which is a pity because I felt like I could do much better than ninth place. But there’s still two mores sprints to come.


“The race to catch the breakaway was not so easy with the wind and there were pretty strong guys in front, so the pace was always high. At the end we caught them not far before the line which shows that they were strong because the bunch was riding pretty fast. It was all lined out so it was already a tough first day. The first day in a stage race where everyone knows it will come down to a sprint finish is a bit of a poker game.”


Sports director Yvon Ledanois added:


“With stage one being a dead flat stage we knew it would come down to a bunch sprint so we had the team supporting Jempy Drucker. The guys did a good job today of protecting Jempy and keeping him up there and he felt good and showed that he is pretty strong, even this late in the season. For the two sprint stages on stage 2 and 4 we’ll definitely be trying for Jempy again.”


Dion Smith takes white jersey in Abu Dhabi

The White Jersey of Best Young Rider, Dion Smith (ONE), said: "It kind of just happened but when I was there in the breakaway, I first thought I’d go for the green jersey but the second option was the white jersey by gaining some time bonus. It worked out well; I got two second places there [in the intermediate sprints]. I’d like to defend the white jersey on the hilltop finish, we’ll see how long I can stay up there. The coming stages are interesting, I’m looking forward to them; this is my first time racing in the Middle East!"


Frustration for Viviani after strong Sky lead-out in Abu Dhabi

Team Sky led the charge into the final kilometre on day one at the Abu Dhabi Tour but Elia Viviani just missed out on a top-10 finish.


Nicolas Roche and Michal Kwiatkowski had done a lot of good work in the last 10km to keep the team up front before Owain Doull and Andy Fenn took over, but heading round the final bend the peloton became fractured as the sprint began.

Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) timed his effort to perfection, taking an impressive victory ahead of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data). Viviani led Team Sky home in 16th, with team-mate Danny van Poppel 24th.


“Today did not go well for us, we'll try again tomorrow @Abu_Dhabi_Tour thanks for the big work today @michalkwiatek,” Viviani tweeted.


Smukulis on the attack in Abu Dhabi

"You never know," said Gatis Smukulis. "I saw the breakaway starting and I threw myself into it. There were almost 40 degrees but we were strong anyway. We made a good job."


The Latvian time trial champion, with three other riders, found the break after only fifteen kilometers and was caught less than 10 km from the finish.


"When I saw that the advantage was still good and the kilometers less and less I believed that the escape could get to the finish. We'll try again soon." commented Astana sport director Alexandr Shefer 


No luck for Lobato in final race for Movistar

Following an unlucky Doha Worlds for him, caught out as crosswinds tore the peloton into several pieces, Juanjo Lobato (Movistar Team) unsuccessfully tried to bounce back in the 147km opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour on Thursday, in and around Madinat Zayed and Liwa. The 27-year-old from Trebujena, Andalusia, got boxed in in the last couple of turns in the closing 2km, eventually finishing 22nd, just behind a three-second split including the other sprinters. Giacomo Nizzolo (TFS) prevailed in the bunch kick.


Both Lobato and Fran Ventoso (26th), the two riders of the Chente García Acosta-led squad that end their Movistar Team careers on Sunday, will have a brandnew chance tomorrow in  a very short, mostly urban race towards Al Marina (115km). Betancur, Amador, Dayer Quintana and Winner Anacona all made it safely into the second half of the bunch as they await for Saturday's mountain finish in Jebel Hafeet.


Lampre-Merida expect improvement for Modolo after disappointing opening stage

There were no top performances from LAMPRE-MERIDA as Sacha Modolo was out of the top ten in the final sprint.

"It is reasonable that Sacha could not be as competitive as the other sprinters in today’s opening stage because, as opposed to most of his opponents, he did not participate in the World Championship in Doha,”  sports director Mario Scirea commented. “For sure the gap to the other sprinters will be smaller in the second stage.”



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