Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) emerged as the winner of the first sprint duel of 2014 with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in stage 2 of the Dubai Tour, but refused to openly claim the Manxman's crown as the fastest sprinter in the world.
Kittel was well protected by his teammates for most of the stage and then jumped from behind Taylor Phinney (BMC) to win the sprint on the edge of the Palm Jumeirah artificial island.
Cavendish and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team tried to lead out the sprint but the side wind made for a hectic sprint. When the front of the race switched across the road, Cavendish was trapped too far back and eased up. He finished 30th, with teammate Mark Renshaw 17th.
The Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders stood in silence as they took a drink from their soigneur after he stage, and Cavendish refused to speak in the heat of the moment. In contrast, a few metres away, the Giant-Shimano riders celebrated Kittel's second victory of 2014.
"Every team makes mistakes. That happens," Kittel told Cyclingnews when asked of the expected season-long battle with Cavendish and Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
"Tomorrow is a new race and we have to prepare the sprint from new again. I hope it will again be Giant-Shimano in front but we have to fight for that every day."
Despite his victory, Kittel modestly refused to declare himself as the fastest sprinter in the world.
"I think that so far that everything is going to plan but I've got to prove it a few more times," he said.
"Mark was not there in the finale, something happened. Maybe it's going to happen in the next few days and then we will have a direct duel."
During the post-stage press conference, Kittel was pushed further about his rivalry and relationship with Cavendish. He was asked if he's become the sprinter of reference now.
"We’re rivals in the sprints but off the bike I don’t think there's a problem"
"I don’t go out for dinner with Mark but I think we have a normal relationship. We’re rivals in the sprints but off the bike I don’t think there's a problem to have a chat with each other."
"There are races you win and there are also races you loose. I'd like to challenge to be the reference of the sprint. That's my goal."
Kittel insisted he not only trying to beat Cavendish.
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