Mark Cavendish opened his account for the 2018 season with victory on stage three of the Dubai Tour, but admitted he was annoyed at himself for sitting up in the sprint the day before – a decision which means he missed out on the leader’s jersey after his win.

Cavendish was boxed in during the sprint on stage one, which Dylan Groenewegen won, and was outsprinted by Elia Vivani on stage two – coasting to fourth place after being overtaken by the Italian.

But Cavendish made amends on stage three after a big effort from his Dimension Data team, and declared himself happy with his early-season form with lofty goals to come in the summer.

Mark Cavendish celebrates his first win of the 2018 season, after sprinting to victory on stage three of the Dubai Tour. Fellow Brit Adam Blythe, right, was fourth (Pic: RCS Sport)

“I'm just a bit angry that I sat up yesterday," Cavendish admitted after his win, which leaves him four seconds behind QuickStep Floors rider Viviani overall.

“Technically I could have had the leader's jersey [and] I apologise to my teammates for that. They did a great job today.

“I'm nowhere near the form I had in July but I'm happy with my form now."

Cavendish’s win – his first of the season – is also his first since last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour, before illness and then a crash at the Tour de France derailed his season.

The Manxman had to abandon the Tour with a broken shoulder after colliding with world champion Peter Sagan in a frantic sprint finish on stage four, and he admitted the effects of the crash are still obvious.

“I still feel the consequences of my Tour de France crash in my body," he added. “It will remain for the rest of my life."

Mark Cavendish, Dimension Data, 2018, podium, pic - RCS Sport.jpg

Cavendish is one of seven Brits at the Dubai Tour – which is not a UCI WorldTour race, despite the high calibre of riders it attracts.

And for the third stage running, former British champion Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) and rising star Jacob Hennessy (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) were in the mix in the final sprint, too.

Blythe’s fourth place – his best result so far – lifts him to 11th overall, while Cambridgeshire-born Hennessy, who was sixth on stage one, is now 12th.

The GC is likely to be shaken up on stage four, however, which finishes atop Hatta Dam – a stage for the puncheurs with gradients touching 17 per cent at their steepest.

Dubai Tour 2018: stage three – result

1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Dimension Data – 3.53.46hrs

2) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis – ST

3) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Katusha-Alpecin

4) Adam Blythe (GBR) – Aqua Blue Sport

5) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida

6) Elia Viviani (ITA) – QuickStep Floors

7) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – UAE Team Emirates

8) Magnus Cort Nielsen (DEN) – Astana

9) Riccardo Minali (ITA) – Astana

10) Dylan Groenewegen (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo

General classification

1) Elia Viviani (ITA) – QuickStep Floors – 12.19.38hrs

2) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Dimension Data +4"

3) Nathan van Hooydonck (BEL) – BMC Racing +7"

4) Magnus Cort Nielsen (DEN) – Astana +8"

5) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis – ST

6) Loic Vliegen (BEL) – BMC Racing

7) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Katusha-Alpecin +10"

8) Riccardo Minali (ITA) – Astana – ST

9) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – UAE Team Emirates +14"

10) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida – ST

11) Adam Blythe (GBR) – Aqua Blue Sport

12) Jacob Hennessy (GBR) – Mitchelton-BikeExchange