Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) played down the pressure and expectation on him to win before the opening stage of the Dubai Tour. But following his impressive victory ahead of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) after a powerful and dominant lead out from his new Etixx-QuickStep teammates, he shared his true feelings, happy to have silenced those who thought his poor 2015 season had been his own causing.
“I’m really happy to win because I think not everyone’s expected that I could win like this,” he said after also pulling on the first blue race leader’s jersey.
“That was the challenge, to show to all the criticism that I’d had over the last months and year, that I’m maybe not motivated, maybe lazy, I wanted to prove that was completely wrong.
“I found it a bit disappointing that people, maybe couldn’t see the whole story and there are reasons for what happened. I was sick that was the reason that was the problem for me in 2015. If you cannot start a season in a good way that if you lose so many km then you will miss it at the end of the year. It destroyed my whole season. People started to say that maybe he’s lazy. The real challenge was to prove them wrong. I really wanted to win in Dubai. I’m super happy that it happened already this stage.”
In praise of Etixx-QuickStep
The new, darker blue jerseys of the Etixx-QuickStep stood out on the front of the peloton as they rode to control the break along with Dimension Data. They took control of the peloton and hit the front several times in the final ten kilometres and made sure they delivered Kittel to the front so he could open up his power and have a clear run to the finish line. Etixx-QuickStep was challenged by Astana and especially Trek-Segafredo, who was riding for Giacomo Nizzolo. However, the boys in blue dominated the finish in the very first sprint for Kittel. He was surprised the team was so strong.
“I’m super happy with the job that the boys did in the lead out,” he said. “They did better than I expected. I think we as a team showed that we are really strong. We have so much horsepower here in the team, and I’m super happy that I can get the win for them.
“We will celebrate tonight but we will stay calm and talk about the race tonight too. We can be relieved now, we got the win that we really wanted, and we will look forward to what happens in the next few days. Of course we will try to improve. I think this win is also a sign of the work we put in this winter. It’s the preparations for the sprints that have paid off. It’s also the fact that the team is already very experienced. I’m happy that I have such a partner on my side.”
After the stage, Kittel hugged team manager Patrick Lefevere after his win and made a point of thanking him for his support.
“I just wanted to thank him, he also said congratulations,” Kittel explained. “He is someone who is really protective of his riders and he lives for this sport. Maybe you cannot really feel it if you have met him only once, but I’m sure he feels the same joy that the riders do when they win. It’s good to know that he is giving the support in an emotional way to the team.”
Not only Cavendish
Cavendish fought to get onto Kittel’s wheel in the final two hundred metres but was then unable to come past him before the finish.
Kittel’s long powerful sprint perhaps eclipsed Cavendish’s good sprint but the German rider knows they will clash throughout the season. He played down that he had in some replaced Cavendish at Etixx-QuickStep.
“I totally don’t see it that way. For me, 2016 is a year where Cavendish and I both changed teams. He went to another team, I came to Etixx. I’m not thinking that Cav was there before me. We are now completely focused on ourselves, on doing good lead-outs, on winning races, and Cav is doing the same with his team.” He said.
“There are so many sprint challenges coming up this year, there will be a moment when we lose a sprint against Cav or someone else, this is part of the sport.”