Andrea Guardini (Astana) shook his hand after the high-speed sprint that decided the opening stage of the Dubai Tour, indicating that the result was close and that his late charge to the line could have been enough to beat Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step).
However Cavendish raised his arms in celebration, convinced that he had won after producing a long powerful sprint. The photo finish proved the Manxman was right, with Guardini forced to accept a close second place.
Guardini has been fighting for sprint victories for several seasons but his often been hampered by a lack of climbing ability, consistency and self-confidence. He joined Astana in 2013 but has rarely had the support needed to fight for victory in the big-race sprint finishes. This time things were different, with even Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali doing a huge turn on the front in the final kilometres to help set up him up. New signing Lars Boom also helped out and Guardini was able to make his late move. And almost win.
“After I'd thrown my bike at the line I hoped I'd got it. It was close and I'm curious to see the photo finish. There can't have been much in it,” he said, leaning over his handlebars after recovering from his effort.
“Near the line, when I saw that Cavendish sat up to celebrate I thought that would help me and give me a chance to snatch it. Unfortunately it was a tailwind that that's why we were sprinting at over 70km/h.”
Guardini discovered that a lactose intolerance had affected his training and recovery in recent years, and he is convinced he can compete with Cavendish and the other big-name sprinters in the peloton. He has worked hard during the winter and saw his second place as a confirmation of his early-season form rather than narrow defeat.
“It's a pity not to win but I'm really happy anyway. It's good to be up there fighting for victory against Cavendish and other riders who have already raced,” he said, pointing out that he is making season debut here in Dubai.
“I wanted to start the season strongly and prove that I've had a good winter. I needed a ride and a result to see how my legs were and I wanted to compare myself with the other sprinters. Last year I was up there in the sprint on the last stage at the Dubai Tour but this year I'm up there on the first one. That means I can be happy with my winter.”
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