Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) won the opening and closing stages of the second edition of the Dubai Tour to clinch overall victory from Giant-Alpecin’s John Degenkolb, who had taken the leader’s blue jersey in a brutal uphill sprint on the penultimate stage.
Rider of the race
2014 was a rough year for Mark Cavendish as he put all his eggs into the Tour de France basket, crashed out on stage one and had to watch from the sidelines as Marcel Kittel dominated to take the (unofficial) title of the fastest man in the peloton.
However, he has started this season lean and hungry. A win on the final stage of the Tour de San Luis was followed here by two wins and a second place. More importantly, his Etixx-Quick Step sprint train looks to be in decent shape, particularly on the final stage where they made their move at just the right time and bossed the final 3km as they put five men in front of Cavendish, who finished the job with ease.
It’s early days and we haven’t seen either Etixx or Giant-Alpecin at full strength yet, but both the team and their star sprinter couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season. It bodes well for some exciting sprinting to come.
Three things we liked
1. The line-up. The Dubai Tour may be a young race with a relatively uninteresting parcours, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the start-list. We had the reigning Tour de France champion (Vincenzo Nibali), the WorldTour individual ranking winners from each of the past five years (Alejandro Valverde, three-time winner Joaquim Rodriguez and Philippe Gilbert), three former world champions (Gilbert, Mark Cavendish and Tony Martin) and the winner of four stages and the points jersey at last year’s Vuelta a Espana (John Degenkolb). Not so shabby.
Nibali’s Italian national stripes were prominent on every stage as he sharpened his race fitness with long pulls on the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres each day. Valverde was second to Degenkolb on stage three and finished fourth overall, while Martin performed his usual role driving the Etixx sprint train.
2. Hills! Well, one hill anyway. Stage three traced an undulating profile through the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, culminating in a long drag up to a 300-metre slog on the Hatta Dam that ramped up to 17% at the line. John Degenkolb won the slow-motion sprint, crossing at a near-standstill before rolling off his bike and lying on the road, exhausted, for several seconds. It made for a thrilling finish in which the more powerful sprinters mixed it with puncheurs such as Valverde.
3. Great Dane. One for our Midge. Tinkoff-Saxo youngster Michael Valgren finished 15th overall to claim the white jersey for the best young rider. The 23-year-old is the reigning Danish road race champion and also a two-time time trial national champion. Twice the winner of the under-23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, he made his mark in the senior ranks last year, winning the overall at his home Tour of Denmark and finishing third at the Four Days of Dunkirk. One to watch.
The race in numbers
3 – This was the third general classification win of Mark Cavendish‘s career after the 2012 Ster ZLM Toer and the 2013 Tour of Qatar.
17 – In percent, the gradient at the finish of stage three, won by John Degenkolb.
6 – Cavendish’s margin of victory over Degenkolb was six seconds. By winning twice and finishing second once, he gained 26 seconds in time bonuses compared with ten for the German.
7 – Sprinters have won seven of the eight stages across the two editions of this race. Only 2014 opening time trial and overall race winner Taylor Phinney has broken the sprinters’ monopoly.
1. Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) 15:22:38
2. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) +0:06
3. Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) +0:10
4. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:12
5. Marco Canola (UnitedHealthcare) +0:14
6. Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare) +0:17
7. Grega Bole (CCC Sprandi Polkowice) +0:18
8. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) same time
9. Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t
10. Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) s/t
Link: Official race website