Tactics pay off for Marcel Kittel with victory on first stage of Dubai Tour

Marcel Kittel took the blue jersey on Wednesday by winning the first stage of the Dubai Tour, which passed through Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah to a Fujairah finish.

FUJAIRAH // Marcel Kittel credited the tactics of his Etixx-Quick-Step team for helping him triumph on the opening day of the 2016 Dubai Tour on Wednesday.

The German sprinter held off a late challenge from defending champion Mark Cavendish to cross the line first in Fujairah and take the Dubai Silicon Oasis stage in a time of 3 hours, 35 minutes, 11 seconds.

The 27 year old said: “There can be no better way to start proceedings than with a first stage win of the new season in a sprint version Tour like this.

“A lot of talking and discussions went into our strategy for the day and the way it came off today morning and afternoon was great.”

The time bonus of 10 seconds awarded to Kittel for winning the stage means he will go into today’s second stage with a four-second lead over Cavendish, who was given a six-second bonus for being runner-up.

Kittel will wear the blue jersey today as leader of the general classification, but also has ownership of the red jersey for topping the points classification, where points are earned for performances in the sprints.

Kittel is in a new environment after joining his employers from Skil-Shimano at the start of the year, and he added: “I’m incredibly happy that I could win today for my first race with my new team.

“Everything has worked so well that I can’t think of any topic to raise to make it better.

“The boys have done a good job. We were the strongest in the lead out and the timing was perfect. We made a plan and we executed it.

“I certainly enjoyed the win, this one has a special flavour. As I said before the season, I restart at zero. I feel very good about today’s outcome. We’ll stay focused and hopefully there’s more to come for us at the Dubai Tour.”

Yesterday’s 179km stage was always expected to favour the sprinters, but at the 35km mark a group of riders made up of Loic Vliegen, Marc Soler, Martin Mortensen and Soufiane Haddi made a breakaway from the pack.

Just over 10km later they were caught by Charles Planet and Jesus Alberto Rubio Arribas and the six were 3 mins, 15 secs ahead of the rest of the pack after 108km, before being reeled in as the race moved into Fujairah for its finale, which would go Kittel’s way.

Haddi, who races for Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team - Al Ahli Club, would eventually claim the white jersey for fastest young rider and the Dubai Jersey for the intermediate sprint.

“The groundwork and time given to prepare before this event certainly helped and I got good pace making support from my teammates, which made all the difference in the end,” said the 25-year-old Moroccan.

Thursday’s’s second stage, the 188km Nakheel Stage, starts at 10.45am from Dubai International Marine Club and is made up of two parts.

The first sees the field race across the desert on the outskirts of Dubai, with the second taking place in Dubai Marina before ending at the Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeirah.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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