Abu Dhabi Tour 2017: Mark Cavendish praises ‘phenomenal effort by Team Dimension Data’ for Stage 1 win
ABU DHABI // Within his remit as the ambassador for the Abu Dhabi Tour, Mark Cavendish is required to use his superstar status to draw attention to, and thus enhance, the credibility of this burgeoning event.
It also helps if he keeps pumping out stage wins, too. The winner of the second and fourth stages last year – his debut, having missed the inaugural event in 2015 with a shoulder injury – Cavendish picked up where he left off on Thursday by storming to victory in the opening stage of the 2017 edition, the Tour’s first year as a UCI World Tour race.
The Team Dimension Data rider crossed the finish line of the 189-kilometre Emirates Motor Company Stage, which started and ended in Madinat Zayed and takes in much of Abu Dhabi’s desert landscape, in 4 hours, 37 minutes and 6 seconds, narrowly edging out German Andre Greipel of Lotto-Soudal and Bahrain-Merida’s Italian sprinter Niccolo Bonifazio.
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While the stage was one of joy for Cavendish, it proved one of despair for reigning Dubai Tour champion Marcel Kittel when the Quick-Step Floors sprinter crashed along with Team Sky’s Owain Doull in the final sprint.
For his Stage 1 efforts, Cavendish, 31, is now in possession of both the red jersey, for the General Classification leader, and the green, awarded to the General Points Classification leader.
While Cavendish will be grabbing all the headlines, the British rider tried to deflect the attention on to his team.
“We studied the stage from last year when I was third, and we did everything right, everything that we planned to do,” said Cavendish, who has won 45 Grand Tour stages, joint-third most in cycling history.
“I didn’t really have to do anything, it was all down to the team. If I’d have lost today, I’d have had a lot of grovelling to do.
“Of course I’m proud of winning, I’m the ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour, and to win and wear the red jersey is pretty special. It was a phenomenal effort by Team Dimension Data today.”
After a day out in the desert, the Abu Dhabi Tour heads to more urban surroundings for Friday’s 153km Nation Towers Stage that will take in many of the capital’s landmarks, including Emirates Palace hotel, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Corniche.
It will be another day for the sprinters, who will conclude their battle with a sprint finish at the marina, and Cavendish will be aiming to replicate his 2016 success, as long as he does not get distracted by the sights.
“I remember the stage from last year,” Cavendish said. “Abu Dhabi is an incredible city, especially when we’re passing the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve seen.
“Last year, I remember there could have been a crash because the whole peloton turned to stare. It’s such a beautiful place.
“Having won the second stage last year, I will try my best to do it again.”
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Updated: February 23, 2017 04:00 AM