If Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) had any hope of defending his Dubai Tour title, they were gone after a puncture in the final kilometres of stage 3 to Hatta Dam saw him lose time. Cavendish had been looking good for most of the stage, remaining in the front group as the attacks began to come off the front.
However, as his compatriot Ben Swift (Team Sky) was slipping up the road with Lieuwe Westra and Dimitry Gruzdev (both Astana), Cavendish was left standing on the side of the road. He had two teammates with him, but Cavendish’s rear wheel appeared unwilling to co-operate with the desire for a quick change. The Manxman ended up waiting for what must have seemed like an eternity for his team car to show up and for a mechanic to give him a new wheel and a helpful shove to get him back on his way.
“Not often I'm top15 over a decisive climb. So when I am, a puncture on the descent's a good way to bring me back down to earth,” Cavendish wrote on Twitter after the stage.
Cavendish chased hard, weaving in between the cars that were also making their way up to the finish. However, he would never make it back to the front group, which was fragmenting as the climb got tougher. He would eventually roll in towards the back of a group more than five minutes down on the day’s winner Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar). It is the second consecutive stage that Cavendish has suffered misfortune after his finish was disrupted by a crash on stage 2
There was more bad news for Dimension Data when road captain Bernhard Eisel took a tumble and was forced to abandon the race in the feedzone. The team would later confirm that the Austrian had fractured his collarbone, a big blow for them so close to the start of the Classics season.
“Poor @EiselBernhard crashed in the feedzone & broke his collarbone. Not nice at all to see one of my best mates go down,” Cavendish added in a second tweet.
There was a silver lining for the team with Eritrean Natnael Berhane having a go off the front. Berhane’s move didn’t pay off but he held on to come home as the team’s top finisher 37 seconds down on the winner.
Not often I'm top15 over a decisive climb. So when I am, a puncture on the descent's a good way to bring me back down to earth #DubaiTour— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) February 5, 2016