Cavendish praises Dimension Data teamwork as he lands first win of 2017

Team studied mistakes from 2016, when Cavendish was third in a similar stage

Mark Cavendish said the psychological importance of landing his first victory of the season, and of triumphing over a stellar array of sprinters, paled into insignificance compared to the pride he took in the work of his teammates on the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

The Dimension Data sprinter picked up where he left off on Thursday, claiming his first win of the campaign at the same race where he took his last of 2016 – the Abu Dhabi Tour has moved from October to February – and on the same day of the month, no less.

And it was the corresponding stage of last year’s edition that served as a learning curve.

"Today we did our tactics – we studied the final from last year," said Cavendish in his post-race press conference. "I was third on same finish and we did everything wrong, so we actually did make a conscious effort to study what we did. And we did the opposite. We did exactly what we planned to do. And it was thanks to studying, it. I’m really happy for that, I didn’t really have to do anything today."

Cavendish would not go into detail about what exactly was done wrong last year or right this year – "I’m not going to share that with you" – but he explained that his teammates delivered him perfectly, and all he had to do was pounce when a rival – in this case Niccolò Bonifazio – inevitably tried to get the jump.

"I just followed Mark Renshaw. I knew someone would go early, I actually thought it would be Greipel, but it didn’t really matter, it was just a case of using him [Bonifazio] as a slingshot," said Cavendish. "It wasn’t in my tactics, but you just know to do that…"

It’s often said that a first win of the season is a particularly significant one – a nerve settler even for someone as richly decorated as Cavendish – but the Manxman insisted that wasn’t the case.

"It’s not a confidence thing at all," he said. "I’m a realist, I know what I need to do, it’s not about psychological confidence. I know if I’m in form or not in form. For the season so far I’m happy with my form."

Nor did it it matter much the fact that he has taken the first of three flat stages in a race that features a wealth of sprinting talent – though it must be said that Marcel Kittel and Caleb Ewan were both picking themselves off the floor as Cavendish was raising his arms in celebration.

"Not particularly, I get more of a boost that my team did everything right," he said. "If I’d have lost today, I’d have had a lot of groveling to do."

The summit finish coming up on stage 3 means Cavendish can’t entertain hopes of winning the race overall, but he now finds himself in the leader’s jersey – an important achievement for an ambassador of the race.

"I’m proud to have won here, to wear the red jersey is pretty special, but the thing I got most from today was how phenomenal team Dimension Data were today," he said.

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