Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) was disappointed to lose the sprint that decided stage two of Dubai Tour but sportingly shook Elia Viviani's (Team Sky) hand before climbing onto the podium to pull on the race leader's jersey for another day.
Cavendish, Viviani and Andrea Guardini (Astana) swapped places on the podium compared to stage one, with Viviani winning for Team Sky, Cavendish taking second and Guardini finishing third. They seem to have more power, speed and better lead out trains than all the other sprinters at the Dubai Tour, who could only fight for the minor placings.
Cavendish preferred, as usual, to focus on his own performance than the final result. However, he was again critical of the rival sprint team for failing to help control the break and ride tempo during the long stage in the desert heat. Etixx-QuickStep again controlled the early attacks to ensure only a small break got away and then rode tempo as the peloton rolled along in the desert and towards the spectacular Palm Jumeirah.
“I'd have liked to win and I'm disappointed with second but we can take a lot of positive points from today: the power I put out and how Etixx-QuickStep rode,” Cavendish told the media in Dubai at the post-race press conference.
“Nobody wanted to control it with us, apart from Sky, who put one guy on the front. The others teams didn't seem that interested. They must get paid to mess around in the peloton. Etixx-Quick-Step again rode well all day. It was windy and so hard to stay up there (at the front).”
“In the finale, we got caught on the wrong side unfortunately. We lost the drag race to the final turn (at three kilometres to go). The wind was coming from the sea on the left and so you really wanted to be on the right. We had to take the left hand side out of the corner and that took its toll in the wind. We got to the front and took control but it took its toll on me a little bit. I'm still happy with power I made in the sprint but I'm lacking a bit of zip.”
“Guardini went but I knew he'd gone too early. But just as luck would have it, Viviani was on his wheel and he pulled me out of traffic, so I was able to come back but it took a while to get going. It'd okay. I've been beaten by Viviani before and probably be beaten by him again. I'm not too disappointed because I can take positive from it.”
Viviani and Guardini
Cavendish will turn 30 in May, while many of his rivals are several years young. Viviani and Guardini are both only 25 and perhaps still developing their sprinting skills.
“I've been beaten by Viviani a couple of occasions and by Guardini once,” Cavendish recalled, modestly avoiding to say how many time he has beaten them when asked his thoughts on his two big sprint rivals here in Dubai.
“He (Guardini) is fast but I'm not really scared of him. I know Viviani from his track background. He moves well and sprints well and can climb good. I think he's more the guy who is going to win the big races. But I don't look at individuals, I try to beat who is ever at each race.”
Cavendish will start three to Hatta Dam wearing the blue race leader's jersey. He leads Viviani by two seconds and Guardini by six seconds, with Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthcare) leading the rest of the pack at 11 seconds back.
Cavendish studied the rolling roads in the finale of the stage and the steep ramp up to the finish during a training ride on Tuesday morning. He apparently admitted that it may be too tough for him. However he refused to concede defeat.
“We'll try. Anything is possible. I don't think I'll win the stage but I have to try to defend the jersey,” he said.
“If it doesn't happen, it's not a failure. I've got a committed Etixx-QuickStep team and we'll try our best.”