Dylan Groenewegen claimed (LottoNL-Jumbo) the white jersey as the best young rider on the opening day of the Dubai Tour. After finishing as runner-up to a superior Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and his powerful lead-out train, the Dutch national champion was a bit disappointed as he waited behind the podium area to go on stage, but he also saw the positive aspects of taking second in a hotly contested and high-speed sprint.
"Yeah, the sprint was just a little bit too long for me. I went with 200 metres to go and Kittel was also a little bit too strong. I only think Quick-Step Floors did a good job today. Second place was the most that was possible today," he said.
Groenewegen has his own lead-out train in the Dubai Tour but the more experienced, more powerful lead-out trains of Quick-Step Floors and Dimension Data left him fighting for position and a little too far back in the final kilometre.
"The final was very hectic, I was in Tom Leezer's wheel, but we were just too far behind. So at 500 meters from the finish, I decided to move up. I got on Cavendish's wheel and then with 300 metres before the finish, I started sprinting. Kittel went, and I tried to take him on but I could only hold his wheel."
Groenewegen is known for his aggressive sprinting. He beat Wouter Wippert to win the Dutch title last summer and got the better of Dan McLay and Ben Swift to take a stage of the Tour of Britain to in Builth Wells. He opted to take the line up the side of the barriers and squeezed his way past Cavendish at the Dubai Tour, who let him through as he fought to control his bike after suffering a late flat tyre. Groenewegen said he was far too focused on getting Kittel's wheel to identify the riders around him.
"I didn't actually see Cavendish up there. I was focused on Kittel's wheel but he was just too strong. It's a pity but this sprint is good for my confidence. I'm looking forward to the next sprint now."
Groenewegen is still only 23 but his success during the second half of the 2016 season secured him the title of one of the most promising sprinters in the peloton. As Cavendish and others age, he could be the one to step up and dominate the sprints in the years to come.
"I think I'm stronger now than ever before. I just hope I can win as many races as I did in 2016, when I won 11 races. This is a new year and we'll try to win whenever we can."