Mark Cavendish ‘not too sure’ of form as he prepares to defend Dubai Tour title

The 2016 Dubai Tour starts Wednesday with the Dubai Silicon Oasis stage to Fujairah, and last year’s winner Mark Cavendish and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins will be seeking very different objectives over the next few days.
Mark Cavendish (R) of Dimension Data and Sir Bradley Wiggins (L) of Team Wiggins ahead of the Tour of Dubai on February 2, 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Mark Cavendish (R) of Dimension Data and Sir Bradley Wiggins (L) of Team Wiggins ahead of the Tour of Dubai on February 2, 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

DUBAI // The 2016 Dubai Tour starts Wednesday with the Dubai Silicon Oasis stage to Fujairah, and last year’s winner Mark Cavendish and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins will be seeking very different objectives over the next few days.

Cavendish has spent the winter focusing on track events and finished fourth at last month’s UCI Track World Cup omnium in Japan as he prepares for the Rio Olympics this summer. Still, he is hoping for a strong showing from his team on the road.

“I’ve been at the Dubai Tour the past two years and I’ve enjoyed them both times. It’s a great way to start the season,” Cavendish told reporters yesterday. “Normally I would have had a week’s racing under my belt before this race, so I’m not too sure of my form.”

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The 179-kilometre Silicon Oasis stage will start at Dubai Marine International Club (DIMC) at 11am and will run through Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.

It will touch the Silicon Oasis area and cut through long desert straights and dunes before ending at Fujairah where the riders will complete two laps of a 6.6km circuit.

Cavendish is confident that the Dubai Tour’s mostly flat roads will benefit him.

“I’m sprinting good and had a winter on the track, and the Dubai Tour lends itself to a majority of sprints,” he said. “I know the stage to Hatta Damn is a tough one, but I’m here with Dimension Data and we come here looking for strong result anyway.”

Wiggins, racing for the first time in Dubai and under the banner of his newly formed Team Wiggins, was in a relaxed mood and tempered any expectations fans might have.

“Don’t expect too much,” he said. “Unlike everyone else, I’m not actually hoping to do anything in this race.

“This is one of four road races I’m doing this year just to be here with my team. It’s nice to be here with the young guys.”

“The majority of the team are track riders. In particular Chris Latham is a young 20 year old who is quite fast. He rode in the Abu Dhabi Tour last year and he’s probably our best chance of a finish. Not to win but to be in the top 10.”

Wiggins said that he had always planned to start his own team to act as a launching pad for careers at bigger teams like Sky.

“I could have signed for another three years with another big team, took a lot of money each month as an ex-Tour winner and had an easy life,” he said. “But I always wanted to do something different when I finished with road racing and having a development team was always in the back of my mind.

“It’s an honour to have my own team.”

Marcel Kittel returns to Dubai with new team, Etixx–Quick-Step, and is hoping for a repeat performance of two years ago when he won three stages of the Dubai Tour.

“For me it’s good to start the new season with a new team,” he said. “I’m really happy with the time I’ve spent in training camps and in preparation for the new year, and now is the moment to show my motivation, to show that all the work we put together as a team will hopefully pay off.

Team Sky’s Elia Viviani won the Palm Jumeirah stage last year and is looking to add to that this week.

“I hope to win again here at Dubai Tour,” he said. “I won in Dubai, I won in Abu Dhabi – maybe it’s a lucky part of the world for me.”

akhaled@thenational.ae

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Published: February 2, 2016 04:00 AM

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