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Dubai Tour 2018: Stage 2


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Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) wears the blue leader's jersey after his victory on stage 1. The general classification picture is as follows:

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) made his first appearance of the season on yesterday's opening stage. The finale didn't quite go to plan for the Manxman, who was frank in his assessment. "It was just pretty chaotic in the finale, it was carnage. I was terrified for my life," he said. Stephen Farrand has the full story here.

Fortunately for Cavendish and all of the other fast men who came in behind Groenewegen yesterday, the sprinters should have a chance to dream it up all over again at the finish today.

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) began his season well at Challenge Mallorca, but had to settle for 13th yesterday. He'll hope for better today, as he explained at the start: "It’s less technical today and you have more space on the road. It will be more up to the firepower in the team. We have great, strong riders to prepare the sprint and I hope we’ve done our homework to work in the same direction."

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Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC) is in the break for the second successive day, and is wearing the young rider's jersey as Groenewegen is, of course, ensconced in the overall leader's blue. 

You can catch up with the video highlights of yesterday's stage here. Dylan Groenewegen was full value for his victory, though Magnus Cort (Astana) pushed him very close indeed.

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Groenewegen is safely back in the peloton after his bike change. The Dutchman hoped his victory on the Champs-Elysees on the final day of the Tour de France would herald his elevation to the elite category of sprinters, and he has started his 2018 campaign in the best possible way against as strong a complement of sprinters as is possible to find at this early point in the year.

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) had to settle for 5th on his first race day of 2018 yesterday. It's a year of change for the Frenchman, who has a new manager at Cofidis, with Cedric Vasseur replacing Yvon Sanquer. One of Vasseur's first acts has been to reduce the size of the sprint train around Bouhanni, but the new boss maintains that he has added to the sprint entourage in other ways, including by hiring Roberto Damiani as directeur sportif. 

"Roberto is the one who can give Nacer what was missing when it comes to winning a race like Milan-San Remo," Vasseur said. "In the past he’s been there to win but also missed something. Roberto has helped guys like Petacchi win so he knows how to deal with the win. He’s also someone who is quiet and relaxed. That can compliment Nacer is who a different personality. That different mental approach, I think, will make a big difference."

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The other racing action this week is taking place in South America at the inaugural Colombia Oro y Paz race. Patrick Fletcher is in Colombia for Cyclingnews, and this is his report from yesterday's opening stage, where Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) sent the local fans home happy with a dominant sprint win.

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And then there were three. Almansoori has knocked off his effort at the front, and waves to the cameras as he drops back to the bunch. While Mirza and Van Hooydonck have likelyy dropped back following team orders, Almansoori seems to have paid a toll for his efforts on the front.

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Away from the Dubai Tour, Dave Brailsford has spoken publicly for the first time since news broke of Chris Froome's adverse analytical finding for salbutamol, saying "For me, there’s no question, he’s done nothing wrong – no question, no question, no question." In keeping with the tenor of his, er, long-standing commitment to transparency, Brailsford refused to answer questions from Cyclingnews at the Colombia Paz y Oro, but Patrick Fletcher was on hand when the Sky manager spoke with a huddle of reporters at the race. You can read the full story here. "At this moment we totally back Chris Froome," Brailsford said. 

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The Chris Froome affair is, of course, dominating the news cycle in these early weeks of 2018, just as the Alberto Contador case cast a long shadow over the 2011 campaign. Giro director Mauro Vegni is on the Dubai Tour and has said that he can't stop Froome from riding the race if his case is not resolved by May. "Froome is welcome at the Giro d’Italia, but if he then wins the pink jersey, he’ll always be the winner for me, even he is suspended and disqualified from the results," Vegni said. Stephen Farrand has the full story here.

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Vincenzo Nibali is riding at the head of Bahrain-Merida's train for the time being, using his work for Sonny Colbrelli to dust off some early cobwebs. Katusha-Alpecin are also gathered en masse at the front but Bram Tankink, prominent for LottoNL-Jumbo through the day, has dropped away from the head of the bunch.

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Planet, Xue and Edet cast ever more frequent glances over their shoulders. They know their escape is petering out.

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Alexander Kristoff sits in third as the sprint begins...

Marezcko goes from distance, but Viviani and Cavendish are moving up...

Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) wins stage 2 of the Dubai Tour.

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) came from a long way back to take second on the stage. Riccardo Minali (Astana) finished third.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) faded slightly in the final 50 metres to finish 4th, while Degenkolb took 5th. The margins were tight in that sprint, but Viviani was a clear winner.

Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) will retain the overall lead thanks to his second place finish.


In the overall standings, Viviani is 2 seconds behind Groenewegen, while Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC) lies third at 9 seconds thanks to the bonuses he picked up after his second successive day in the break.

General Classification after stage 2:

Elia Viviani, incidentally, turned 29 day and could have hardly have asked for more from the occasion. Often an afterthought at Team Sky, the Italian seems to be thriving in his leadership role at Quick-Step. After a stage win at the Tour Down Under last month, this is Viviani's second victory in Quick-Step blue. It also means he keeps pace with his sprint stable-mate Fernando Gaviria, who notched up his second win of the season in Colombia yesterday.

It shouldn't be overlooked that Viviani endured a wheel change from hell in the final 20 kilometres today. Our man in Dubai Stephen Farrand estimates that it took 49 seconds for Viviani to get his disc-brake-equipped rear wheel changed, but he calmly made his way back to the bunch and held his sangfroid as he navigated his way towards the front on his return.

In a bunch sprint, the winner is always right, of course, but Viviani seemed to get his timing just right in the finishing straight here. Kristoff and Marezcko went a little too early, while Groenewegen left it too late. Viviani's effort was pitch-perfect. 

After missing out on unleashing the full force of his sprint yesterday, Mark Cavendish picked his way through the chaos to get in the mix for the win today. Cavendish's stated aim is to be in winning form by the time his three-week stint in the Gulf concludes at the Abu Dhabi Tour, and he seems on course. Today was just his second race day of the year, after all, and, given that he was facing a rider (Viviani) with the Tour Down Under in his legs, Cavendish won't be unduly concerned by how the final 50 metres played out here.

Marcel Kittel will be more frustrated, having failed to make an impression in the sprint for the second successive day, despite the work of his Katusha-Alpecin team throughout the stage. It was, however, just his second outing in the colours of Katusha-Alpecin and some teething troubles are perhaps inevitable. "We learn more from our defeats than our victories. If we continue like this, our first win isn't far away," Kittel said after the finish today.

Elia Viviani on his stage win: “Having my birthday today added to my motivation. Losing yesterday was also good for my head. Overnight we felt like we missed one chance that would never be given back. I feel I'm in good condition and have the legs for winning. I had a mechanical but luckily it was with 20km to go and I had time to come back. With 500m to go, my lead out man Fabio Sabatini closed the gap. I chose Kristoff's wheel. I saw Groenewegen coming back with 50m to go, but finally the line was in the right place for me to win. I'm pretty happy.”

Dylan Groenewegen saved his blue jersey but was disappointed to miss out on a second victory given his current form. The Dutchman made up a lot of ground in the final 50 metres, but had simply left himself with too much to do. "It's very hard to come only second today after winning yesterday," Groenewegen said. "I had mechanical problems with my first bike, and also with the second 1.5km before the finish. That's how I lost my sprint train and I came very late to the front for sprinting. The only good point for today is that I'm still in the lead of the overall classification but I wanted to win the stage.”


Thanks for following live coverage of stage 2 of the Dubai Tour on Cyclingnews. We'll be back with more tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can find a full report, result and pictures from today's stage here, while Stephen Farrand will have all the news and reaction from Dubai.

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