The crash coming out of the tunnel with just over a kilometre to go disrupted the peloton and derailed several leadout trains, including those of Etixx-QuickStep and Cavendish’s Dimension Data squad. Cavendish tried to move back up in the final metres but was too far back as Team Sky led out Viviani, and the Italian took the victory on edge of the Jumeirah Palm for the second year in a row.
In sight of the line, Cavendish got on Andrea Guardini’s wheel, hoping the Italian would help him move up for the sprint. However, Polish rider Grzegorz Stepniak (CCC Sprandi) moved across the road from the barriers and used his elbow to force Cavendish off Guardini’s wheel. Stepniak would surely have been disqualified if they had been sprinting for victory but the judges took no action. Cavendish vented his anger by giving the Polish rider a quick but harmless headbutt in reply, as if he was riding in a Keirin race.
Cavendish was not happy after the finish, frustrated that he was unable to have even try to sprint for victory. He didn’t lose any time to Viviani but slipped to fifth overall at four seconds, complicating his chances of overall victory even if he can stay with the leaders on Thursday uphill finish to Hatta Dam.
Cavendish stopped briefly after the stage to take a drink from his soigneur before riding back to the race hotel with his teammates. The adrenaline was still flowing and his anger was evident.
“It was a little bit sketchy, it always is this stage. There were too many risks being taken, too many risks,” he told Cyclingnews and Het Nieuwsblad.
“We were okay in the tunnel and Mark (Renshaw) did a good job. Then a rider from SkyDive Dubai, I don’t know his name, he just turned right and ‘Bam!’ I was on my brakes, on the uphill…I knew I was too far behind after that but then I saw that Guardini had a lead out man. I decided to stay behind them thinking they’d accelerate but they didn’t. I was just too far back. Shit happens…”