Mark Cavendish and his Dimension Data teammates sat in the shade of a tree beyond the finish line of stage two of the Dubai Tour, carrying out an informal de-brief on the hectic sprint finish as they got changed and prepared for the drive back to the hotel in central Dubai.
Cavendish finished eighth as Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) took his second consecutive victory. The German came around on the left after moving up late in the sprint and had the speed to punch his way to victory, beating Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), with Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina) in third.
Cavendish was calm despite defeat and explained he, like Kittel, had also been caught out by the late surge by Trek-Segafredo. While Kittel followed lead out man Fabio Sabatini on the left, Cavendish tried to go on the right. But he couldn’t find a way through the chaos and so eventually eased up before the line.
“We were with Quick-Step and we both got caught out. Kittel was near me and we were panicking with 500 metres to go,” Cavendish explained to Cyclingnews, remembering every detail of the sprint as if he had experienced it slow motion.
“Then it suddenly opened up and we both got through. He cut left with his team, he really swerved left. By the time I moved across to him Ferrari got on his wheel and just went ‘whack!’ into me. He didn’t do anything wrong, he did his sprint, but I didn’t want to fight and crash in a sprint in February.”
“After that I went on the right side but there was no way through. At first we were coming up super fast and I could see Kittel on the left. In my opinion I was going faster than him. Then the Dutch champion guy Groenewegen went along the barriers in front of me. I was forced on the brakes with 100 metres to go and that was it.”
A flashback to the World Championship sprint with Sagan
Cavendish revealed he had a kind of flashback as he made his sprint and decided his tactics in a split second. In Qatar last October on a similar finish, Cavendish opted to sprint on the left, believing the right side would be closed by the riders leading out the sprint. However Peter Sagan managed to find a way through and took the shortest line to victory, with Cavendish finishing a frustrated second.
“With the wind coming from the left, with a bend on the right, the right side of the road never opens. But it did for Sagan and he won the world title… So I thought I’d try it today. But of course, it didn’t open, in fact it shut. But that’s sprinting.”
“I can only take consolation from the fact that I was happy with how I felt. The team wasn’t quite as good as the first sprint but they were still good. There were more risks being taken today and so it was more sketchy.”
“I was happy to be able to have a go. I need to be at my very best in July, more than anything. And I know I’ll be right in July.”