Welcome to stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour, a mere 115km with the start and finish in the city of Abu Dhabi.
Today is pretty much a city course, with another mass sprint finish expected.
We have lift-off!
Er, we mean the stage has started....
The race website tells us: “The second stage is mostly in the city. After the start the peloton will travel on wide roads towards the Grand Mosque, and then towards Yas Island with a passage through Khalifa Island (where there are several roundabouts and speed humps). At Yas Island (first Intermediate Sprint) the race goes to Sheikh Zayed bin Highway towards the Corniche of Abu Dhabi. It follows a passage within Reem Island - including the second Intermediate Sprint - then the race returns to the Corniche and to the finish line. The entire route is on wide boulevards with road furniture constantly dividing the lanes.”
We hear that a six-man break has already formed. We hope we can get the names for you.
Our six leaders have over a minute now. We have only been able to recognize quickly two Lampre jerseys.
94km remaining from 115km
Jens Keuekeleire (Orica) is in the break group again today.
The profile for today’s stage looks like this. ___________________ The technical term we use around here is “flat as a pancake.”
Giacomo Nizzolo is starting today’s stage in the leader’s red jersey, after winning yesterday’s bunch sprint. You can read here how it all came to be.
83km remaining from 115km
In the group, we have: Jan Polanc (Lampre Merida), Stanislau Bazhkou (Minsk), Dion Smith (ONE), Samuel Williams (ONE), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) and Eugert Zhupa (Willier-Southeast).
With 83 km to go, they have a gap of 2:06.
It is sunny and 33° today.
Here our top three from yesterday's stage, all the usual suspects, one might say.
1 Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo)
2 John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin)
3 Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)
Nizzolo also leads the point ranking, ahead of Degenkolb, with Keukeleire third, due to points from the intermediate sprints.
Keukeleire leads the sprint ranking, Smith the young riders, and top team is Tinkoff.
At the front of the chase group we see a mixture of Trek, Giant-Alpecin, Dimension Data, with a few Astanas, too.
We just saw a group of spectators! There aren't all that many, to be honest.
Fifth place in yesterday's sprint finish went to youngster Chris Latham of Team Wiggins, and he enjoyed going up against the top names.
Keukeleire and Smith were in the break yesterday, as well.
66km remaining from 115km
The field has not let this group get away. With 66 km to go, the gap has dropped to 1:45. It has never been more than about 2:30.
Why was Jens Keukeleire out in front all day yesterday? He told us why. But the question is: why again today??
Was Nizzolo happy to win yesterday? Silly question -- of course he was.
With 55 km to go, the gap has dropped under 1:30.
Mark Cavendish was only third in yesterday's sprint, but he wasn't too upset by not winning.
If the stage were to end with this current gap, Keukeleire would be the new overall leader, with Smith second at 4 seconds and Zhupa third, at 7 seconds.
50 km and only 58 seconds now!
Looks like there is lots to do in Abu Dhabi if ou don't want to watch the bike race -- an amusement park, a water park, a golf course....
Andre Greipel is also in this race. He wasn't in the mix yesterday, but one can never count him out.
Keuekleleire won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Zhupa and Smith.
It is hard to miss Greg Van Avermaet on his golden bike. He also is sporting a big smile, and why not, after his great season.
The gap is back up to 1:24.
The new (and old) World Champion isn't here for this race. Instead, he just spent a few days getting to know his future teammates at Bora-Hansgrohe.
One rider each from Dimension Data, Giant-Alpecin and Trek-Segafredo at the head of the race, followed by what seems to be the whole CCC team.
Astana just sent a rider zooming up ahead of the CCC troops.
The gap is steadily falling again, now at about 1:20, with 33km to go.
The peloton is all strung out on the far left side of a five-lane highway. Plenty of room for team cars and motos today.
Meanwhile, Cavendish and Degenkolb are having a friendly chat in the peloton.
The Lampre car pulls up to the lead group for a short chat with Polanc.
The head of British Cycling is stepping down, but says it has absolutely nothing to do with the recent controversies.
Time for teh field to start keeping a close eye on the time gap. 25 km and 1:10
Bazhkou is the first to drop from the lead group.
Interesting development The gap is slowly moving up towards to the two minute mark.
Keukeleire won the second intermediate sprint, ahead of Smith and Zhupa.
CCC has now dropped back within the peloton.
The pace in the field has picked up as the gap with 14 km to go is at 1:51. Have they left it too late?
There are some very worried faces amongst the spinters' teams in the peloton now.
10 km and 1:30. If we use the usual rule of thumb of 1 minute for each 10 km, then we can already congratulate the break group.
The gap is dropping steadily, but will they make it?
7 km and 1 minute!
Trek, Sky and CCC pounding out the chase....
5 km and 44 seconds. Keukeleire in virtual red, and determined to make it real.
"We can let the break group dangle at two minutes, there's lots of time to catch them again ..... ooops!"
The field is probably setting a speed record here. Gonna be some very tired riders this evening.
2 km, 22 seconds.....
Let's face it, most of this stage had been deadly dull, but the chase these last few kms has been fascinating.
1 km and 6 seconds!
And..... caught! What a chase! 500 km to go.
Cav jumps to a early lead, and holds on to it, but just barely.
A big smile from the stage winner!
Elia Viviani (Sky) second and Andrea Guardini (AStana) third.
That is enough to give Cavendish the leader's jersey. He now leads the race by 4 seconds over Nizzolo. Keukeleire is rewarded for his efforts with third place, 5 seconds down.
"Maybe we were a bit too relaxed," says Cavendish.
Christopher Lathan of Team Wiggins, only 22 years old, finished in the top ten once again.
Be sure to check out our latest Podcast, with a Tour de France analysis, Froome, and Sagan rules the world!
That was really a fascinating last few kilometers. It was quite doubtful for a while as to whether the break group would be caught.
Here we have the top ten on the stage:
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 2:32:21
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
3 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana
4 Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Wilier-Triestina-Souteast
5 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
6 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7 Christopher Latham (GBr) Team WIGGINS
8 Michal Kolár (Svk) Tinkoff Team
9 Steele Von Hoff (Aus) ONE Pro Cycling
10 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-BikeExchange
Be sure to catch tomorrow's stage. It will not end up in a bunch sprint with Cavendish and Co., as it actually has a "medium mountain" uphill finish!
General classification after stage 2
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 5:48:06
2 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:04
3 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-BikeExchange 0:00:05
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:08
5 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
6 Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:10
7 Dion Smith (NZl) ONE Pro Cycling
8 Christopher Latham (GBr) Team WIGGINS 0:00:14
9 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
10 Michal Kolár (Svk) Tinkoff Team
Thanks a lot for reading along today, and we will "see" you again tomorrow!
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