DUBAI (VN) — Third place isn’t bad, but Mark Cavendish will surely sprint faster tomorrow.
How can he be so sure? Cavendish (Dimension Data) out-kicked all but Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL – Jumbo) in the flat, fast opening stage of the Dubai Tour despite suffering a flat tire nearly four kilometers from the finish. He crossed the line — at over 60kph — with zero air in his rear tubular.
“Not bad, third,” he said, appearing pleased with his ride given the circumstances. “I couldn’t pass, couldn’t do anything. Probably the best result I’ve ever done in this stage,” he said.
“I couldn’t stand up. It wasn’t slipping, you just feel it hard on the cobbles on the rim,” he said.
Tuesday’s opening stage was set to be the first sprint showdown of 2017. Both of the sport’s reigning speed kings, Kittel and Cavendish, came to Dubai with strong lead-out trains — Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw for Cavendish and Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote for Kittel — ready to line up head-to-head. Cavendish was happy with his team despite the fact that Kittel’s Quick-Step squad was able to come over top of Dimension Data late in the finale.
“I’m very happy,” Cavendish said. “They’re really good. They do long stints into that wind, which is good. It was really really good.”
It wasn’t the first time Cavendish has sprinted on despite a mechanical.
“I was second to Tyler [Farrar] in the last stage of the Vuelta in 2010, and my wheel was full touching the frame. It’s happened a few times, even on this stage [of previous editions of the Dubai Tour], I’ve finished with a puncture before. It’s part of bike racing, isn’t it,” he said. “I hit a pothole, massive one, whacked down.”
Even though Cavendish managed to stay close on Tuesday, he was never going to come around Kittel with a flat tire. The first real duel of 2017, then, is pushed to Wednesday’s stage to Ras al Kaimah.