Elia Viviani (Team Sky) was hoping to celebrate his 26th birthday with a second stage victory at the Dubai Tour but could only watch from behind as Mark Cavendish and his Etixx-Quick-Step lead-out man Mark Renshaw dominated the finale of the fourth stage in the shadows of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper.
Renshaw and Fabio Sabatini piloted Cavendish through the final right corner with a kilometre to go and then the Australian dragged his teammate away from the peloton, leaving everyone else scrambling to make up lost ground. When Cavendish looked around he saw he had head start on his rivals and so he kicked early, kept going and was able to enjoy winning the final stage and claiming the overall victory.
Viviani came back up to Cavendish's wheel but could not get past him and finished second. Juan José Lobato (Movistar) was third and again consistent, with Ben Swift taking fourth. The Yorkshireman and the Italian have quickly formed an efficient and effective sprinting duo and could cause the bigger-name sprinters some trouble during the 2015 season due to their track-racing inspired bike skills and finishing speed.
“We weren't in a great position after the last corner. We came back well but I lost Cavendish's wheel. I tried to emerge in the last 200 metres but Cav had gone away from us,” Viviani told Cyclingnews with regret.
“I'm sorry we couldn't do better today. Second and fourth is a good result in lots of ways but I wanted to win to celebrate my birthday. But that's racing, that's sprinting. We can only congratulate Cav on his sprint and his win.”
Viviani will now focus on the track world championships, where it will be vital to score qualification points for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. He will be back on the road in March and will target Ghent-Wevegem, followed by the Giro d'Italia in May.
Team Sky has signed Viviani for his sprinting speed and built a lead-out train to help him and Ben Swift. The Dubai Tour was only their second race after the Challenge Mallorca but Viviani has so far won a stage in Dubai ahead of Cavendish and Andrea Guardini (Astana) and taken four other top-three results.
Italian directeur sportif Dario Cioni was pleased with how the team performed in Dubai.
“Cav is one of the best in the business so we can’t be too disappointed with the way things turned out today, but you can never be 100% happy finishing second,” he said on the British team's web site.
“I was happy with the way our riders applied themselves once again today, and going into that last corner we were in a good position. Two guys from United HealthCare allowed the gap to open up in the closing metres though which put Cav in a great position. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t get Elia in place to come around him.”