The big-name sprinters gathered for the traditional pre-race Dubai Tour press conference on Monday afternoon. Yet while boxing weigh-ins before a prize fight are often tense, with the odd punch flying, Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb and Elia Viviani were far more passive than aggressive, seemingly uninterested in whipping up a rivalry on the first sprint showdown of the 2017 season.
Earlier the four sprinters posed for photos overlooking the Palm Jumeirah and in front of a chess set. Hopefully Tuesday’s first sprint finish on the edge of the Palm Jumeirah will spark more action.
Cavendish has been in the in the UAE for a week and his sunburnt cheeks highlighted his slim face. Nobody can accuse the Manxman of being out of shape this year. Cavendish has had just two and half weeks off during the winter after racing deep into November. As a consequence, he claimed he does not know how he will perform in the sprints.
“I’ve been here a week, I love it out here in UAE. There are more and more spectators now and with the start in the Marina, it’s a race riders want to comeback to. I know I do,” he said genuinely enthusiastic about his season debut.
“This year we’ll see how it goes. I didn’t finish the season until the end of November, I’m usually in training for the new season by then, so we need to see where I am. We’ve got a good Dimension Data team here and we’ll try to do as well as we can.”
Team Sky target the sprints and overall success
Elia Viviani looked fresh but had flown in from Argentina via Italy after making his season debut in the Vuelta a San Juan as part of an Italian national squad. He quit the race on Friday due to stomach problems after collecting three second places in sprints. He is hoping to step up here and use his form from Argentina to surprise his rivals who are making their season debut in Dubai.
Degenkolb back to his best
John Degenkolb won on Hatta Dam in 2015 with a huge effort on the short but steep climb to the finish line. He missed last year’s race after he and his teammates were hit by a car while training in Spain. He made a gradual but successful comeback during the 2016 season but is looking to get back to his best and build for the spring Classics this week after moving to Trek-Segafredo during the winter. He joked with fellow German Marcel Kittel before the press conference got underway but his intentions are serious.