Marcel Kittel was bumped out of the leader’s jersey after being caught behind a crash in the last kilometre of stage 2 at the Dubai Tour. He slid to second place in the overall but holds the same time as new leader Elia Viviani (Team Sky), and warned that his team Etixx-QuickStep wouldn’t give up trying to win the title in the coming days.
“We will all fight it [the overall title],” Kittel said after the finish of the stage in Palm Jameirah. “I don’t think it’s unrealistic to at least stay in the same time but we will see, we definitely have some good cards to play tomorrow.”
The third stage of the Dubai Tour is the most decisive, 172km and finishing on the short, steep slope of Hatta Dam. The tour will end in Dubai for a 137km flat race that is expected to be a sprint finish.
Kittel won the opening stage of the Dubai Tour in Fujairah on Wednesday, beating Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), and securing a 10-second time bonus. They were placed first and second, respectively, in the overall following that stage but both riders wound up caught behind a crash ahead of the final sprint on Thursday.
Viviani won the stage, and the 10-second bonus, and moved into the overall lead but with no time gains on Kittel.
If Kittel felt threatened after losing the overall lead he certainly didn’t show it, stating calmly that the important thing is that he still has the same time as Viviani.
“I was trying to hang on and I think that’s not bad: to keep [same time] like this,” Kittel said.
Before the crash, and for nearly the entire 188km stage from Dubai to Palm Jameirah, Etixx-QuickStep did much of the tough work at the front of the peloton. Kittel said that he was impressed by their effort to protect their overall leader against the day’s breakaway, an aggressive field and through strong crosswinds.
“First of all I really want to say that my team did an amazing job, they did 90 per cent of the work today, for the whole bunch against four guys with a lot of wind, it was really impressive and I’m proud,” Kittel said.
Kittel was caught up behind a crash coming out of a tunnel with a kilometre to go, which effectively removed him from contention in the final sprint, though he ended up in 22nd place.
He reminded reporters that the Dubai Tour is his first race of the season with his new team, and that it is still only February. He held his team up to a high standard, admitting that they made some mistakes during stage 2, but he expects all the kinks to be ironed out before the bigger races this spring and summer.
“Like I said yesterday, there are days were we won’t be able to get the result that we want,” Kittell said. “I think the team tried as much as possible. The final was difficult, we did some mistakes, and we have to be honest about that, but it’s better to do some mistakes now than later in the season.”