Abu Dhabi Tour: Mark Cavendish bags first win of 2017 season

Manxman sprints to stage one victory as Marcel Kittel suffers crash under flamme rouge

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) sprinted to his first victory of the 2017 season to claim the leader’s jersey on stage one of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

Cavendish outsprinted German champion Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) after a near-perfect lead-out from his sprint train kept him out of trouble on a windy final straight.

Mark Renshaw put in a huge shift to drop Cavendish off at the front, where he took the wheel of Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) before coming round the Italian to win.

Mark Cavendish sprinted to his first victory of 2017 on stage one of the Abu Dhabi Tour (pic – RCS Sport)

A crash-laden final five kilometres saw riders including Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) hit the deck, while British time trial champion Alex Dowsett (Movistar) was among the riders to go down in another crash under the flamme rouge.

Marcel Kittel (QuickStep Floors) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) also went down in that second incident, meaning they played no part in the final sprint – while Owain Doull (Team Sky) suffered some nasty-looking cuts, allegedly as a result of one of Kittel’s disc brakes.

But Cavendish stayed out of trouble and reaped the rewards as he secured his first win of the season and the 145th of his career – the last three of which have all come in Abu Dhabi.

Six riders had earlier formed the day’s break, with Artur Ershov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Kazushige Kuboki (Nippo-Vini Fantini), David Lozano (Novo Nordisk), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF), Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates) and Artyom Zakharov getting up the road.

Their advantage peaked at more than five minutes, but the sprint teams – not least Cavendish’s Dimension Data – worked well on the front to keep that under control.

As riders dropped from the front group, there never looked any danger of the race not finishing in a bunch sprint and the final escapees were reeled in with 17km to go.

A chaotic finale did ensue, however, with first Contador hitting the deck and facing a frantic chase back on with just a few kilometres remaining.

The Spaniard, aboard a team-mate’s back, did latch back on but a pinch point under the flamme rouge caused more chaos as QuickStep Floors and Dimension Data fought for position on the front.

Kittel and Ewan were the highest profile victims, while Doull and Dowsett also hit the deck – the Welshman suffered bad tears to his kit and a laceration through his shoe, in his first race for Team Sky after having his appendix removed.

At the front, however, Dimension Data pressed on undeterred, with Bernie Eisel swinging off for Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, who in turn swung off for Renshaw.

Renshaw’s huge shift on the final straight kept Cavendish out of the wind, before the Manxman spotted his opportunity and took Bonifazio’s wheel as the Italian opened up his sprint.

And as soon as the Manxman opened up his sprint there was little anyone could do to stop him claiming the stage win, the leader’s jersey and some valuable WorldTour points to boot.

Abu Dhabi Tour 2017: stage one – result

1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Dimension Data – 4.37.06hrs
2) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal – ST
3) Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida
4) Simone Consonni (ITA) – UAE Team Emirates
5) Elia Vivaini (ITA) – Team Sky
6) Roger Kluge (GER) – Orica-Scott
7) Alexander Porsev (RUS) – Gazprom-RusVelo
8) Matteo Pelucchi (ITA) – Bora-hansgrohe
9) Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) – Bardiani-CSF
10) Eduard Michael Grosu (ROM) – Nippo-Vini Fantini

General classification

1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Dimension Data – 4.36.56hrs
2) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal +4”
3) Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida +6”

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