Bauhaus lays foundations with Abu Dhabi Tour victory

German pips Kittel in tight sprint finish

Phil Bauhaus wasn't being rude when he gazed off over the heads of the journalists who gathered around him in the press tent after stage 3 of the Abu Dhabi Tour, he simply wanted to get a proper look at his win on the television screen positioned over their shoulders.

The Sunweb sprinter had every reason to squint carefully at the images, given that his victory was by the tightest of margins in a blanket finish against his fellow Germans Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and race leader Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors).

It took a careful examination of the photo finish before the race jury ruled that Bauhaus had won the stage by mere millimetres from Kittel. Both men had celebrated cautiously past the line without knowing for sure, and Bauhaus had then been whisked off for the podium ceremonies without having a chance to review the footage for himself.

"I wasn't sure if I had won or not, I just saw it was really, really close. Especially with Kittel coming from behind, he was really fast and – sorry, I'm just seeing it a bit on TV now – it was really close," Bauhaus said. He continued to speak as he watched another replay.

"I came in good position behind Viviani through the last corner, I could start my sprint from his wheel. I'm just seeing it – it was really close – but it makes me really proud to take the win, especially with all the big names here. It's a super, super nice one."

Still only 23 years of age, Bauhaus is in his fourth season as a professional and his second with Sunweb, after two campaigns with Bora-Hansgrohe. He announced his arrival at WorldTour level with a fine win at the Critérium du Dauphiné last year, but while the Abu Dhabi Tour lacks the prestige of the French race, the quality of the sprint field in the Middle East means that his second top-flight triumph may carry even greater cachet.

"It's a different win but it's for sure also a very important win," Bauhaus said. "It's still quite early in the season and it's the first win for our team so maybe it will give more confidence to our team. I hope that we can continue to build on it."

German sprinters

Bauhaus will surely have drawn a quiet satisfaction from beating three of his fellow countrymen in the finale here. He was still only a teenager when Kittel and André Greipel, who placed sixth, were winning at the Tour de France. He is a contemporary of Ackermann, who claimed the silver medal in under-23 World Championships in Doha, where Bauhaus himself took fourth.

"It makes me really proud. Some years ago I was still watching on TV when Marcel was sprinting at the Tour de France, and now I'm competing with him and the other big names. I also could beat them today and it makes me really proud, a really nice feeling to be finally on the top level in the WorldTour," Bauhaus said.

"I don't know why Germany has so many good sprinters. We really have world-class sprinters now and we had them in the past too. I don't know if there's reason for it, I think you're just born with it, to be a sprinter or a climber."

In its previous iterations as Skil, Argos and Giant-Shimano, the Sunweb team proved the ideal school for German fast men Kittel and John Degenkolb, though the squad is no longer built as deliberately around the sprints as it once was. Sunweb will send a team devoted chiefly to Tom Dumoulin to the Giro d'Italia, while Michael Matthews will be the sprinter for the Tour de France, but Bauhaus believes he will have ample opportunity to shine over the course of the year.

"Going to the Tour de France would be very difficult, but I'm just working on myself and it doesn't matter which Grand Tour I get selected for," he said.

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