Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) finished out of the top ten in the opening sprint at the Dubai Tour, stuck behind the chaos and fight for positions, as riders from virtually every team in the race tried to find the best wheel and the best line for their sprinter.
For much of the finale, Cavendish was protected by his Dimension Data teammates but when Quick-Step Floors lined it out and LottoNL-Jumbo's Dylan Groenewegen - the eventual winner - and his lead-out man Timo Roosen kicked early, Cavendish was frustratingly stuck in traffic.
"I didn't really get the sprint out. I got the lead out, I got a good workload in the finale but I didn't sprint it up," Cavendish explained after a quick debrief with his teammates.
"I saw a couple of spaces with about 300 or 400 metres to go and I thought I'd go in. But when you try to find that, someone is going the other way, so I was on the brakes.
"My legs felt alright, Renshaw was good, Bernie (Eisel) was really good. But it's not the best Dubai Tour stage we've done with this team, that's for sure."
The finish on the edge of the Palm Jumeirah was technically difficult and considered to be one of the most complex sprints of the season. It is like trying to land a 747 at one of the most testing airport runways in the world.
The tunnel with six kilometres to go is a key point and the switchback with three kilometres out always reshuffle the front of the peloton. The road also narrows to a single lane and the winds blow constantly from the riders' left as the road curves gradually right. It requires a full team to get it right and always indicates the strength of the sprinters’ teams. Quick-Step Floors confirmed they have a strong lead-out train again in 2018 and LottoNL-Jumbo clearly know how to look after Groenewegen.
Cavendish has the bike skills to handle the fight for wheels, the switching and jumping, and the dangers of a hectic sprint. However, he was not happy with several riders who moved abruptly across the peloton after doing their work on the front.
"It was just pretty chaotic in the finale, it was carnage. I was terrified for my life," he said.
"I wasn't fighting to get on a wheel, I was fighting to dodge guys who were turning left across the peloton. The UCI ruled over the winter that it's alright to cut across the peloton, so I guess everyone is doing it now…"
"It becomes more sketchy if you're further back in the peloton, and today I made the mistake of being too far back in the last couple of kilometres, so couldn't even get close to challenging for the sprint."
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