Dubai Tour leader Marcel Kittel supports cancelled Stage 4: ‘The weather is really dangerous’
HATTA // Marcel Kittel will be favourite to add a second consecutive Dubai Tour overall title to his resume when the peloton returns to Dubai on Saturday for the final stage of the race following the cancellation of Friday’s Stage 4 due to extreme weather conditions.
Overnight, race organisers had already decided to modify the 172 kilometre Westin Stage following warnings of bad weather, changing the 11am start from Dubai International Marine Club to a 1pm flag-off from Hatta Club in a bid to protect the riders from the sandstorm in the Dubai deserts.
The new route would have taken the riders around two laps of 51.1km loop around the hills in Hatta before finishing on top of the Hatta Dam. The vicious winds, however, made even that impossible and the race management decided to cancel the stage, applying the UCI’s “Extreme Weather Protocol”.
“There was just too much wind to race safely and we would have taken a huge risk even trying,” said Mauro Vegni, the head of cycling of RCS Sport, who are the organisers of the Dubai Tour along with the Dubai Sports City.
“The weather forecasts had predicted even stronger winds later in the afternoon, at speeds of around 65kmph. Gusts were also likely and that would have been far too risky for the riders.”
Quick-Step Floors rider Kittel, who has an eight-second lead over LottoNL-Jumbo’s Dylan Groenewegen in the overall classification, welcomed the decision.
“This is extreme ... very, very windy,” said Kittel, shivering as he spoke to the media in a tent at the top of the Hatta Dam, with the mercury around the 10°C mark. “I think I can speak for all the riders when I say that I’m happy with the cancellation of the stage because the weather is really dangerous.
“It’s an important decision in the whole process of rider security. Today it was simply not possible to race. I respect the organisers for taking that decision.”
As he spoke, the howling winds spoke in the decision’s favour as well, threatening to blow the tent away. The interview came to an abrupt halt as both Kittel and the media ran out, scampering to safety.
Mark Cavendish, the Abu Dhabi Tour ambassador, said he would have preferred to race, but backed the decision to cancel the race.
“I commend the organisers as they took the right decision taking into consideration the safety of the riders,” the Briton said. “Personally, I’d like to race, but I think realistically it is impossible.
“Coming all the way to Hatta shows a willingness from all the teams and its riders to compete. No one was looking for a day off. We made a five-hour trip to get here to try and make it happen.”
The Hatta Stage could have proved decisive for the general classification, especially after John Degenkolb triumphed in Stage 3. Winner on the Hatta Dam in 2015, the Trek–Segafredo rider, who is third in the overall classification, would have fancied his chances on the steep climb this time as well, closing the gap on Kittel.
With the final stage being another flat course, the overall title is now Kittel’s to lose.
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Updated: February 3, 2017 04:00 AM