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Dubai Tour, stage 5: Viviani wins crash-marred final stage to secure overall title

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Elia Viviani captured his second stage win on Saturday to seal the overall victory in the fifth edition of the Dubai Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele | Getty Images (File).

A crash near the front of the peloton on the final corner with 500 meters to go to the line made for a messy sprint on the fifth and final stage of the 2018 Dubai Tour on Saturday. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) took his second stage victory of the race and the overall victory as well, as Katusha-Alpcin’s Marco Haller was second. Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) rounded out the podium.

“It’s amazing,” Vivani said of both his stage and overall victories. “This morning I was very stressed but I tried to look relaxed. Two seconds lead meant all or nothing. But we rode well as a team. The ideal situation for us was a breakaway without anyone involved in the top of the overall ranking. I had six teammates leading me out in the last corner. We missed the crash by very little. [Fabio] Sabatini closed the gap on the four guys ahead after the crash. With 50 meters to go, I understood I could win the stage. With the headwind, it would have been dangerous to launch from too far out.

“To win GC here is an important step up. I want to be one of the best sprinters in the world. This is a good start towards this goal with the great team I have now.”

Coming into the final bend with 500 meters to go, the fight for position was at its climax and many of the sprinters were either freelancing alone or had one teammate left with them. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) came into the corner sitting in perfect position, fourth wheel behind a teammate, but slide out on the corner. His crash caused a chain reaction, as multiple riders hit the deck. Mark Cavendish was held up in the crash, but did not go down. Stage one winner Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) was able to avoid the mess, but had to hit his brakes too much and lost too many places to be competitive in the sprint.

Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) got around the crash with two teammates, but lost them in the final straight to the line and did not sprint. Haller tried to salvage a top finishing place for the team, but could not hold off a fast finishing Viviani. The Italian passed Haller in the final 10 meters to take the victory. He ended the five-stage race with a 12-second buffer over Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) to win the coveted circle of stars trophy. Colbrelli finished the race third overall, 14 seconds behind Viviani.

Top 10, stage 5

  • 1. Elia Viviani, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, in 03:05:28
  • 2. Marco Haller, TEAM KATUSHA – ALPECIN, s.t
  • 3. Adam Blythe, AQUA BLUE SPORT, s.t
  • 4. Jean-Pierre Drucker, BMC RACING TEAM ,s.t
  • 5. Rick Zabel, TEAM KATUSHA – ALPECIN, s.t
  • 6. Marcel Kittel, TEAM KATUSHA – ALPECIN, s.t
  • 7. Sonny Colbrelli, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, s.t
  • 8. Magnus Cort Nielsen, ASTANA PRO TEAM, s.t
  • 9. Andrea Peron, TEAM NOVO NORDISK, s.t
  • 10. Fabio Sabatini, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, s.t

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Elia Viviani, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, in 19:09:49
  • 2. Magnus Cort Nielsen, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:12
  • 3. Sonny Colbrelli, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:14
  • 4. Jean-Pierre Drucker, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:24
  • 5. Rick Zabel, TEAM KATUSHA – ALPECIN, at 0:24
  • 6. Nathan Van Hooydonck, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:27
  • 7. Loïc Vliegen, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:28
  • 8. Timo Roosen, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:30
  • 9. Dylan Teuns, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:34
  • 10. Marcel Kittel, TEAM KATUSHA – ALPECIN, at 0:38

Saturday’s 132km fifth and final stage of the 2018 Dubai Tour circumnavigated the main city and finished at the high-end City Walk district in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The stage began on the outskirts of the city in front of the famous Skydive Dubai skydiving school.

Four riders slipped the peloton’s grasp early in the stage and built an advantage of nearly five minutes before the peloton began to reel them back in. Quick-Step Floors, the team of race leader Viviani, controlled the front of the bunch in the early going, but LottoNL-Jumbo came to the front with 85km to go as the gap continued to rise. The Dutch team’s sprinter, Dylan Groenewegen, won the opening stage on Tuesday.

The riders in the lead group were Nasser Alememari (UAE National Team), Daniel Pearson (Aqua Blue Sport), Quentin Valognes (Novo Nordisk), and Xiaolong Sun (Mitchelton-BikeExchange).

Inside the final 15 kilometers, Pearson, the last survivor of the day’s breakaway, was about to be swept up by the peloton and the Michelton-BikeExchange duo of Jacob Hennessy and Robert Stannard attacked.

The duo was caught with 3 kilometers to go, as Bahrain-Merida led the peloton with Vincenzo Nibali at the head of affairs.

It was sprint trains galore in the final kilometers with all the top sprinters looking to end the Dubai Tour on a high note. Lotto-NL Jumbo had control of the bunch under the red kite, but seemed to have been there a bit too early. Groenewegen had only one teammate leading him, which wasn’t enough to last the final 1,000 meters.

Around the final bend, Groenewegen had dropped back a few place looking for a wheel to follow. Thus, that would be his downfall. He followed Bouhanni into the corner and when the Frenchman went down he was able to dodge him, but the sudden loss of speed ruined his chances of sprinting for victory.

The crash caused for a chaotic sprint to the line, as suddenly those who were doing the lead-out were left sprinting for the stage win. However, Katusha-Alpecin got through the corner unscathed and had two riders leading Kittel. The German speedster would lose his teammate though and end up not sprinting.

Haller took the initiative of trying for the stage win for Katusha-Alpecin, but he was just barely nipped at the line by Viviani. The Italian used his track speed to finish strong and steal the stage victory right at the last moment.

Vivani became the only two-time stage winner of the 2018 race and also took home the overall victory. It was a great end to the week for him, as he also celebrated his 29th birthday on Wednesday, which just happened to be the day he won his first stage.

“When I signed with Quick-Step, I made a big step up,” Viviani said. “Winning sprints is my job, but with this team, it’s much easier. We’ve had a good start. Now we have to confirm in the biggest races, mainly in the Classics and the Grand Tours. I’m surprised with my shape at this time of the year because I’ve not done any more training than usual in the offseason. The main reason for these early season successes is the team and the planning process.

“I came straight from Australia to Dubai. I’ve been looked after very well before the race started here. Now I know why Dubai is such a famous tourist destination. The way I won Stage 2 against the world’s best sprinters will remain in my memory. I’m also happy with how I defended the lead yesterday. In today’s final sprint, the experience of track racing helped me tremendously.”

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