Abu Dhabi Tour: Marcel Kittel takes advantage of overeager Caleb Ewan to claim Stage 2 win
ABU DHABI // One of the most important rules in sport is to never celebrate too early.
Many a blooper reel contains athletes prematurely revelling in their glory, only for it to be snatched away at the death. Unfortunately for Caleb Ewan, he is the latest to suffer such ignominy.
Engaged in a tight sprint finish with Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish at the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Tour’s 153-kilometre Nation Towers Stage on Friday, Ewan appeared to have seen off his rivals. Just centimetres from the finish line, the Australian Orica-Scott rider pumped out his arms to celebrate a memorable victory over two of cycling’s sprint heavyweights.
However, those few centimetres were all Kittel needed as the Quick-Step Floors rider stole the stage, with Cavendish, who won Thursday’s opening Emirates Motor Company Stage, coming home in third.
“I’m super annoyed with myself,” Ewan, 22, said. “My team did a great job and even though I was feeling a bit sore this morning, they always supported me throughout the whole stage and really backed me.
“For me to stuff it up like I did, I feel bad for them more than anything. To be honest, I thought I was already at the line. It was one of those things where that last 30 centimetres went really slowly and he got me.
“It was one of the biggest rookie mistakes a sprinter could make. The good thing to come out of it is that I’m probably never going to do that again.”
While Ewan, who claimed the white jersey for the young classification, will rue a golden opportunity missed, full credit must go to Kittel, who clawed his way back into the peloton after suffering a tyre puncture just 30km from the finish.
After a crash in the final kilometre of Stage 1, Kittel could be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t going to happen for him in Abu Dhabi. Instead the 28-year-old German was standing atop the podium after prevailing in a photo finish.
“I can say I’m very happy,” Kittel said. “I believed until the last moment. The wind was blowing into our faces and from the left, so it made sense to surf from wheel to wheel and pick up speed.
“I knew when I punctured earlier that it wasn’t going to be a moment for crosswinds, and there was no danger. It was a quick change and I was back to the peloton very quickly.”
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Given the nature of his victory, Kittel had a few words of wisdom for Ewan, who he expects will learn from the experience.
“I guess I just beat him on the line and it shows you have to sprint right to the line,” he said. “It gave me the opportunity to use those extra centimetres.
“I think it’s a mistake that all sprinters have made, and I’m sure it will never happen again to Caleb.”
Third-placed Cavendish retained both the red and green jerseys for the General Classification and General Points Classification respectively, but he admitted he couldn’t live with Ewan’s speed.
“In all honesty, and to take nothing away from Marcel, Caleb was the strongest today,” Cavendish, 31, said. “Riding into a block headwind, I couldn’t match him.
“I knew with a kilometre to go, I was too far forward because in a headwind you need to be in the wheels. With Marcel’s strength he’s always going to come five kilometres per hour faster. I then went to pass Caleb but couldn’t do it.”
After two stages catered to the sprinters, it is time for the climbers to shine on Saturday as the Abu Dhabi Tour heads into the mountains for the 186km Al Maryah Stage from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet.
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Published: February 24, 2017 04:00 AM