Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) sprinted to victory on stage two of the Dubai Tour, ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and race leader Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing).
A flat route for the first road stage of the inaugural race meant all eyes were on the sprinting heavyweights, but with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) boxed in, Kittel took control to take a commanding victory.
Having struggled with the crosswinds at the Tour Down Under, Giant-Shimano coped much better this time out to deliver Kittel in the perfect position for the sprint finish.
Phinney led the sprint out from a long way back, underlining his superb all-round ability after his time-trial success in stage one, but there was only really going to be one winner as Kittel came round him to win.
And the German paid tribute to his team-mates at the finish after securing his second victory of the season, having previously won the People’s Choice Classic in Australia.
“I’m very happy and very proud of how we worked for the win today,” said Kittel.
“It was very important to be where we were, at the front, as we came out of the tunnel.
“The team did a great job to put me in position, and then I was able to take the wheel of Taylor Phinney in the last 200 to 250 metres, and sprint from there.”
Francisco Mancebo (Skydive Dubai), Willie Smit (Vini-Fantini-Nippo) and Diogo Nunes (Banco BIC-Carmim) had formed the day’s break within the first kilometre, staying out front for much of the day.
South African Smit picked up both intermediate sprints – and the two one-second bonuses – but their day up front never looked likely to succeed with BMC Racing, blue jersey Taylor Phinney in tow, keeping men at the front of the bunch.
Well, today’s #Dubaitour stage didn’t go as planned! Didn’t contest the sprint after finding myself a long way back with 500m to go.
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) February 6, 2014
The gap stretched to 3’30” at its maximum but the American team always looked comfortable on the long, flat roads.
Nunes lost touch with the other leaders as the gap tumbled in the final 30km, while at the back a puncture saw Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing) momentarily lose contact.
With the pace rapidly increasing several riders from Continental teams fell towards the back of the peloton, which allowed Hushovd to latch back on to the now strung out bunch.
Smit and Mancebo continued to lead the way, with the veteran Spaniard taking on the lion’s share of the work, but the South African sat up and took the long way around a roundabout to allow himself to be swallowed up.
And with the bunch bearing down upon the grimacing Mancebo, and the sprint teams getting organised at the front, the race came back together inside the final 11km.
Movistar also brought riders to the front, keeping Alejandro Valverde out of trouble, while former team-mate Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), the world champion, also moved forward as the race approached Dubai’s Palm.
Giant-Shimano took control with the crosswinds making for a nervous bunch, with the palm trees lining the coast highlighting just how much wind was battering the bunch.
Kittel’s team showed they have clearly learned lessons from their failures in the crosswinds at last month’s Tour Down Under as they led the way, jostling for road position with Omega Pharma-Quickstep.
At the back the pace and the winds proved too much for some riders, but the sprinting heavyweights stayed out of trouble.
The sprint trains strung out with two kilometres to go, with Sagan on Cavendish’s wheel behind the Omega Pharma-Quickstep leadout.
However, an injection of pace from Giant-Shimano put paid to the Belgian team’s hopes as the British champion found himself isolated and boxed in.
It left Phinney to lead the sprint out, with Kittel timing his acceleration to perfection to comfortably earn the victory.
Phinney’s third place saw him add a further second to his GC lead and he will wear the blue jersey again tomorrow for what organisers have termed the ‘nature stage’, which is again likely to end in another bunch sprint.
Dubai Tour – stage two result
1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Giant-Shimano – 2.50.30
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale – ST
3) Taylor Phinney (USA) – BMC Racing
4) Juan Jose Lobato (ESP) – Movistar
5) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – Trek Factory Racing
6) Roberto Ferrari (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
7) Nikolay Trusov (SVN) – Tinkoff-Saxo
8) Lucas Haedo (ARG) – Sky Dive Dubai
9) Jacopo Guarnieri (ITA) – Astana
10) Raymond Kreder (NED) – Garmin-Sharp
1) Taylor Phinney (USA) – BMC Racing – 3.02.32
2) Steve Cummings (GBR) – BMC Racing +15”
3) Lasse Norman Hansen (DEN) – Garmin-Sharp +17”
4) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +23”
5) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Trek Factory Racing +26”
6) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale +30”
7) Adriano Malori (ITA) – Movistar +33”
8) Maciej Bodnar (POL) – Cannondale +36”
9) Alexandr Porsev (RUS) – Katusha – ST
10) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Giant-Shimano – ST