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"That was the challenge, to show to all the criticism that I’d had over the last months and year, that I’m maybe not motivated, maybe lazy, I wanted to prove that was completely wrong."

Photo: ANSA - PERI / Dal Zennaro


































03.02.2016 @ 19:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Marcel Kittel got his career as an Etixx-QuickStep rider off to the best possible start when he stomed to victory in his first race in his new colours on the first stage of the Dubai Tour. After a splendid lead-out from his new teammates, he started his sprint from the front and easily held off archrival Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) to claim both the stage win and the leader’s jersey in the third edition of the race.


We have gathered several reactions.


Marcel Kittel: I wanted to silence the critics

First race of the year, first win for Marcel Kittel, who enjoyed a perfect start to his spell in the Etixx – Quick-Step jersey! Racing the Dubai Tour for the first time since 2014, when he scored three victories, the 27-year-old German won in dominating fashion stage 1 of the competition (Dubai – Fujairah, 173 km), on Wednesday. Following a textbook lead-out by the team at the end of a day in which Etixx – Quick-Step's riders pulled hard together with Team Wiggins, Dimension Data and Trek Factory-Segafredo to bring the six-man break back, Marcel Kittel hit the front from far out and launched a devastating sprint, finishing comfortably ahead of Mark Cavendish and Giacomo Nizzolo.


“We stayed calm in the last kilometers. Our plan was to come to the front after the last roundabout and we did it. The boys rode smart taking advantage of the tailwaind, they brought me in an excellent position, and I just took the opportunity. It’s the best possible start”, said Marcel Kittel, who had words of praise for his teammates at the end of the stage.


”I’m really happy for today’s victory. I’m extremely satisfied with the job and the lead-out of my teammates, they were perfect, had a great timing and gave it all for me. I want to thank them for that, this is their victory as well. We showed we are really strong and I’m happy that I won also for them.


"Especially after the hard season I had last year, I'm incredibly happy that I could win today for my first race with my new team. Everything has worked so well that I can't think of any topic to raise to make it better. The boys have done a good job. We were the strongest in the lead out and the timing was perfect. We made a plan and we executed it.


”I surely enjoy the win. This one has a special flavour. As I said before the season, I restart at zero. I feel very good about today's outcome. We'll stay focused and hopefully there's more to come for us at the Dubai Tour."


Dubai – Fujairah was a stage which brought Kittel not only huge joy and a high degree of satisfaction, but also the blue jersey, the victory and the overall lead coming as confirmation of the strong preparation and hard work he put on during the winter: “It’s nice to have the leader’s jersey, but it won’t change our plans for the next days, because with Dubai being a sprinter’s race, we would have been at the front regardless of wearing or not the blue jersey. We are relieved, because we got the win we wanted, but we will continue to work and improve. I will give everything for that, and I’m not talking only of Dubai here. My focus is to be at my best and make steps forward all season long.


“I’m really happy to win because I think not everyone’s expected that I could win like this. That was the challenge, to show to all the criticism that I’d had over the last months and year, that I’m maybe not motivated, maybe lazy, I wanted to prove that was completely wrong.


“I found it a bit disappointing that people, maybe couldn’t see the whole story and there are reasons for what happened. I was sick that was the reason that was the problem for me in 2015. If you cannot start a season in a good way that if you lose so many km then you will miss it at the end of the year. It destroyed my whole season. People started to say that maybe he’s lazy. The real challenge was to prove them wrong. I really wanted to win in Dubai. I’m super happy that it happened already this stage.”


“I’m super happy with the job that the boys did in the lead out. They did better than I expected. I think we as a team showed that we are really strong. We have so much horsepower here in the team, and I’m super happy that I can get the win for them.


“We will celebrate tonight but we will stay calm and talk about the race tonight too. We can be relieved now, we got the win that we really wanted, and we will look forward to what happens in the next few days. Of course we will try to improve. I think this win is also a sign of the work we put in this winter. It’s the preparations for the sprints that have paid off. It’s also the fact that the team is already very experienced. I’m happy that I have such a partner on my side. It would be nice to keep the jersey till the end but there’s also a hard stage on day 3.


“For me, 2016 is a year where Cavendish and I both changed teams. He went to another team, I came to Etixx. I’m not thinking that Cav was there before me. We are now completely focused on ourselves, on doing good lead-outs, on winning races, and Cav is doing the same with his team.”


The third edition of the Dubai Tour will go ahead on Thursday with another flat stage, between Dimc and Palm Jumeirah, the world’s largest artificial island. On the course there are three intermediate sprints, the last one coming 31 kilometers before the expected sprint finish.


Mark Cavendish: It’s not bad to close 1.5 bike lengths on Kittel

Mark Cavendish would net his first podium placing for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka at the opening Dubai Tour stage today, sprinting to 2nd place just behind Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep). Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) was 3rd.


The 6 leaders had a 5-minute lead at one stage and so the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders, with help from Etixx-Quickstep took up the chase from the peloton. The African quartet of Songezo Jim, Nic Dougall, Natnael Berhane and Daniel Teklehaimanot did some stellar work early on, bringing the gap down to a manageable 2'30" with 30km to go. 


The African Team continued to take command of the chase while Cavendish, Mark Renshaw and Bernie Eisel would get into position for the sprint. With 10km to go the break was caught. For the finale, after a hard chase, it was just Dougall that remained upfront with the experienced sprint trio. Etixx came into the final 3km with a numbers advantage and Cavendish jumped onto the wheel of Andrea Gaurdini (Astana). As the sprint opened up, he came from 5th wheel to pass the 3 riders ahead of him but could just not haul in Kittel before the line.


“I’m obviously disappointed not to win today, but I’ve taken a lot of positives from the race,” he said. “The Team Dimension Data boys took control and rode brilliant all day to set up a sprint finish. When I saw Etixx had a lot of guys in the final, I wanted Kittel’s wheel, but so did the other sprinters.


”In the end I started from too far behind Marcel in the sprint but to close 1.5 bike lengths on him in the final, I’m pretty happy with my condition and with the work the boys did for me today. I’m sorry I couldn’t pay them back with the win, but we’ll keep trying.”


Nizzolo: When I look at the riders who beat me, I have to be satisfied

Giacomo Nizzolo sprinted to third place after superb teamwork by Trek-Segafredo in the opening stage of the Dubai Tour.


There was no stopping Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) who easily captured the win and showed the Kittel of old has returned. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was second.


It was a traditional sprint stage of 173-kilometers and the early six-man escape group had little hope of holding off the peloton on the flat, wide-open roads of the United Arab Emirates. The peloton raced into the two 6.6-kilometer finish circuits on the heels of the breakaway, and it was a matter of when not if the six would be eradicated.


"There was a light tailwind and it was a super fast stage, 48km/h average speed," said director Dirk Demol after the race. "After the six riders went away Dimension Data and Etixx-Quick Step controlled. Today the team did everything we discussed in the pre-race meeting; a fantastic job at the end – we didn't make any mistakes – and when you look at the quality of the sprinters here, we can't complain with the third."


It was the first test for Nizzolo since Australia where he battled an on-form Caleb Ewan of Orica-GreenEdge only to run into a red-hot Kittel in Dubai. Still shaking out the travel after racing across multiple time zones in the past weeks, Nizzolo was pensive in claiming another podium and not the elusive win:


"When I look at who finished in front of me and who finished behind me, and how we performed at the end, I have to be satisfied," explained Nizzolo. "It is hard to say always second, third, but today I am happy with the third. Now we look ahead, there's more chances in the next days and nothing is impossible – we will keep trying."


Strong Sacha Modolo takes fourth in season debut

LAMPRE-MERIDA began the participation in the third edition of the Dubai Tour obtaining a place in the top 5 thanks to Sacha Modolo who was 4th in the final sprint.

On the long straights of the final circuit, Ferrari led out Modolo, who could enter the last kilometer just behind the front of the bunch. The Italian sprinter raised the speed at 400m to go in order to jump onto Cavendish's wheel and then he sprinted to 4th place behind Kittel, Cavendish (2nd) and Nizzolo (3rd).

"Modolo spent a good winter and he did proper trainings. We received the confirmation in today’s stage, since Sacha obtained a good result in his first seasonal competition and against top sprinters,” sports director Marco Marzano explained “In the first part of the stage we tried to attack, especially Feng, but the speed of the peloton was too high, nearly 50 km/h. We did not find the right action, so we focused on supporting Sacha for the sprint.

”Tomorrow Modolo will have another chance and it will be interesting to see if he'll be even stronger than today".

Modolo is satisfied. "At 400 meters to go, I made a first sprint to follow Cavendish's wheel, but we still were a little bit too far from Kittel: when Marcel started the sprint, his advantage was too big and he deserved the victory. My progression was good, I had good feelings and my legs had enough power.  These are interesting feedbacks in view of the next races.”


Moroccan shines at star-studded Dubai Tour

White jersey holder and intermediate sprints leader Soutane Haddi (Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team - Al Ahli Club) animated the stage and was rewarded with two jerseys.


"Being a team from Dubai, we’ve trained very well for this race,” he said. “The coaches gave us the instruction to break away today and I was one of the two designated riders for the job while others were there to protect our sprinters, since we also have two sprinters this year. I managed to collect the points to be awarded this jersey. I’m delighted to have won the two intermediate sprints. It’s a huge amount of work work that is paying off."


Guardini pleased with sensations in first sprint in Dubai

"I missed just to find the right position behind the rider who finally won,” said Andrea Guardini. “But the feelings are good, and tomorrow there is another sprint!"


Guardini finished sixth in the first stage of the Dubai Tour which finished in a bunch sprint.


"The team moved well in the final part of the stage,” commented Astana sports director Dmitri Sedoun. “But we could not stay together in the last 2 kilometers."


Good sprint performance for ONE in Dubai opener

Approaching the finish line with 1km to go ONE Pro Cycling were controlling the pace from the front as Yanto Barker and Matt Goss positioned themselves to deliver Chris Opie to the line. In a decisive move, Marcel Kittel of Etixx- Quickstep jumped to the front opening up the sprint and claiming victory in front of Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data. Chris Opie powered to the finish to claim a credible 7th place in his debut race of the season.


A great day in the saddle, the remaining riders all finished safely in the bunch having worked hard to position Opie in the final sprint. Head DS, Matt Winston commented, “Today was a good day for the ONE Pro Cycling team, we set out with a plan to try and place a rider in the break and then set the sprinters up for the finish. An objective we achieved on both counts. To see Chris step up into the top 10 in a stage during a .HC race was really pleasing and something he has worked hard for. I feel the whole team will take confidence from this result and hopefully we can build on it for the rest of the week”


Failed Sky lead-out for Elia Viviani in first Dubai sprint

Elia Viviani had to settle for eighth place on the opening stage of the Dubai Tour.


The Italian sprinter had a lot of ground to make up riding under the flamme rouge before starting his sprint and, despite making it onto the wheel of eventual stage winner Marcel Kittel (Etixx - Quick-Step) with 500m to go, he couldn't overhaul the powerful German.


Sky had looked strong in the closing stages but seemed to get slightly penned in on a large roundabout 2km from the finish and the lead-out failed to come together as planned.


Speaking after the stage, Sport Director Nicolas Portal said the riders will have a small debrief tomorrow, but he doesn't believe it's a big issue.


He said: "I don't think there's any issue with the strength of the team or their legs, it just didn't come together how we wanted it to.


"There was maybe a lack of communication. We will have a small debrief tomorrow, I don't think it's a big issue, but it's a shame to lose a chance like this for Elia to try to win a stage.


"We went a bit too early and with 2km to go Elia was without team-mates. That was not the plan but sometimes this happens."


Portal added that the stage unfolded as expected, although there was a brief flurry of panic when it came to catching the breakaway.


"Almost all the time there was a tailwind and with 40km to go the gap was three minutes. That was a little bit dangerous. We thought about putting someone on the front to ride at that point but then the wind changed direction, it became a headwind, and the gap came down super quick. That was not a problem."


It's another flat stage tomorrow, and Portal is optimistic.


"We try again tomorrow," he concluded. "The stage is slightly different to last year, it's a little shorter. With 2km to go we will drop down and go through a tunnel, then it's a sharp right with 500m to go. It will be pretty, pretty fast. It's another chance for Elia and the guys."

Michael Kolar shows sprint progression in star-studded Dubai Tour

Michael Kolar was supported by the Tinkoff squad in the fast-paced and flat opening stage and tried to gain positions for the final sprint. Despite being squeezed out, the Slovak managed to finish in the Top 10.


Tinkoff was at the start line in the United Arab Emirates with only 7 riders and one change to the previously-announced squad: Ivan Rovny and Robert Kiserlovski had to surrender due to flu. Manuele Boaro, coming straight from Tour Down Under, replaced the Russian rider while the last-minute withdrawal of the Croatian rider forced the team to line up with one man down.


The third edition of the Dubai Tour began today with the first stage of 173 km, from Dubai to Fujairah, with a final circuit of 6.6 km to be circled twice. A long breakaway marked the initial stage, with the peloton which always kept under control the escapees and brought them back towards the end, with 10 km to go. As in 2015, the stage ended in a very fast-paced bunch sprint where a compact Tinkoff squad worked hard to bring Michael Kolar in the best possible position helping him to grab the 10th place overall.


"Today's stage was quite classic and straightforward," stated sport director Bruno Cenghialta,  "the six-men breakaway gained about four minutes but it was pretty controlled by the peloton. In the final circuit, which was quite short, the peloton brought the escapees back and we tried to position Michael Kolar for the sprint, but clashed against some of the best sprinters in the group."


"However, in the end, we should remember this was the first race of the year for most of the team, and despite that it went relatively well", concluded Cenghialta.


Michael Kolar commented, “Today was a pretty straightforward stage, and for a long time the breakaway was pretty much controlled. But for the sprint, I wasn't on the best side, there's not much to say. Tomorrow’s stage is supposed to be a little bit longer, so we’re expecting we can play it again, we’re going to do the same thing, we are going to learn from today, for me, and have the same train.”


124 riders lined up at the start, for a total of 18 teams, with hard fights  from the outset of the stage and various breakaways. Manuele Boaro was very active in the top positions of the group and although he hadn't planned this race, the Italian tried to join the breakaway.


The second stage of 183 kilometers is yet again favorable for sprinters, with the finish line in Palm Jumeirah, the spectacular artificial island in front of Dubai.


"Tomorrow's stage," summed up Cenghialta, "has a finale which is a bit more complicated than today. Anyway, in case of a bunch sprint we'll try to improve our train to achieve a better result."


Lack of lead-out experience costly for Lobato in Dubai

Along the edge of the Gulf, the Movistar Team started the 3rd Dubai Tour at the fore as Marc Soler spent most of the 172km stage one - starting at the emirate's urban centre and finishing with a short, flat circuit in Fujairah - in the breakaway, a six-man attempt which allowed the 22-year-old Catalan allrounder to reach the penultimate lap around the finish, 10km from the end, in the fron.


"The plan was going after big breaks and stay at the front during that fast opening phase," explains Soler. "I was right on Vliegen's wheel, going right after him when he attacked, and the peloton gave us room as they had gone for too many moves before. It was more of a matter of following team tactics than looking for individual chances - I actually got into the intermediate sprints despite not being too fast. It was a quick day, really flat, but it's not too hard when you're willing to help the team. The strategy should be quite similar tomorrow: looking after any dangerous breaks before waiting for Friday's hilly finish."


Despite the squad directed by Chente García Acosta trying to lead Juanjo Lobato out with the likes of Dowsett, Sütterlin, Gorka Izagirre and Castroviejo - the latter in his 2016 debut and early in the moves before Soler's  - the Andalusian was unable to find his place in the speed of the final kilometer. Lobato ranked in 12th and will surely be looking forward to another chance on Thursday's Palm Jumeirah finish, prelude of Hatta's decisive kick uphill on stage three.


"The guys did well, looking to put Juanjo into a good position, but some other squads prepare lead-outs better, more specializd than us, and we lacked that bit of energy and experience to keep our place," sums up Garcia Acosta. "It wasn't a good sprint for Juanjo, either: too flat and fast. Better chances should arrive for him later this week.”


Mechanical sets CCC Sprandi sprinter back in Dubai opener

Grzegorz Stępniak pushed hard in the final kilometer and finished the stage with 13th place. He is the highest ranked CCC Sprandi Polkowice rider in GC.


“In the end I tried to stay close to the favorites in the front of the group. Unfortunately, with 10 kilometers to go another rider bumped into my rear derailleur and I couldn’t sprint on the right gear. It was a pity, since I felt good and the finishing straight suited me. I will stay motivated and will do my best in the next days,” Stępniak explained.


Novo Nordisk show the colours with aggressive ride in Dubai

Team Novo Nordisk had an aggressive start to its second appearance at Dubai Tour with Martijn Verschoor (NED) sprinting to a top 15 finish and teammate Charles Planet (FRA) featuring in the day’s main breakaway.


The 173-km race began with a flurry of attacks, but after 30 kilometers, a group of four riders pulled away from the peloton.  Team Novo Nordisk’s Charles Planet launched a counterattack and was joined by another rider, catching the break at the 46 km mark.  That group led the race for more than 120 km and was caught with just 10 km to go after fighting for the last intermediate.


“My first stage of 2016 is done but I’m not totally satisfied,” Verschoor said. “My winter training made my legs good, but I made a mistake at the last roundabout that probably cost me a top 10. But it was great to see a very strong ride by Charles in the breakaway. In 2016, you’re going to see strong improvements for Team Novo Nordisk. It’s going to be a good season!”


Said Planet, “It was my first race of 2016, I wanted to see how I felt and how my winter training went.  I saw the four guys in the breakaway about 200 meters in front. I needed to reach them. It was a good day for me and for the team to build confidence for the next stage and the rest of the race.”


Team Novo Nordisk Senior Vice President of Athletics, Vasilli Davidenko added, “It was a great beginning. There were several breakaways today and we had a guy in every one. We were in the lead position almost all day. I’m excited to see our guys competitive on Day one and racing as a team. “


BMC youngster bounces back from heart surgery with strong ride in Dubai

It was a day for the breakaway on stage 1 of the Dubai Tour with a six-man breakaway staying away for much of the race before being caught with ten kilometers to go, making way for a sprint finish won by Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep).


There were multiple attempts to form a breakaway in the first hour of the race, before Loïc Vliegen broke clear at 36 kilometers along with Marc Soler (Movistar), Martin Mortensen (One Pro Cycling) and Soufiane Haddi (Skydive Dubai). Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk) and Jesus Alberto Rubio (Al Nasr Pro Cycling Team Dubai) joined soon after, and the group eventually gained 4'15 on the peloton.


Vleigen is happy with his race, which is both his first race of the 2016 season and first race since undergoing surgery to correct a congenital heart defect in October 2015.


"I was feeling good and the legs were good. After a slow winter recovering from the operation, I'm happy that in my first race back I made the breakaway.


"I tried to attack at the beginning of the race and finally I made the break. I was feeling good so in my mind I was thinking about taking a jersey or something. So it was a good day, hard but not too hard. I'm not too tired so I'm looking forward to racing tomorrow and the next days."


Stage 2 is another stage for the sprinters, a 188 kilometer course from the Dubai International Marine Club to Palm Jumeirah (Atlantis).




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