German sprinter Marcel Kittel returns to the top, winning the opening stage of the 2016 Dubai Tour ahead of Mark Cavendish

Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) made an impressive debut performance for Etixx-Quick Step, winning the bunch sprint at the end of the opening stage of the 2016 Dubai Tour.

Kittel opened up his sprint early in the straight run-in to the line in Fujairah, and powered ahead of his rivals. Defending champion Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) placed second, with Italian Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) a bike length back in third.

Kittel will wear the distinctive blue leader’s jersey going into stage two, and sits four seconds ahead of Cavendish thanks to his winner’s time bonus.

For Kittel, the win comes as a relief after a torrid 2015 season plagued by illness and poor form, and which ended with him leaving the Giant-Alpecin team for Etixx-QuickStep.

>>> Marcel Kittel discusses his season’s goals ahead of Etixx-Quick Step debut

“After a hard season last year, I’m incredibly happy I could win,” Kittel said at the finish. “Even more that it worked so well with the new team. We were the strongest in the lead out. The most important thing is to stay calm for the next few days and see what can come.”

Marcel Kittel in the race lead at the Dubai Tour

Marcel Kittel in the race lead at the Dubai Tour

The day’s escape group consisted of Loic Vliegen (BMC Racing), Martin Mortensen (One Pro Cycling), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk), Marc Soler (Movistar), Soufiane Haddi (Skydive Dubai) and Jesus Alberto Rubio (Al Nasr Pro Cycling Team Dubai).

The break was caught with 10km to go, as Team Wiggins moved to the front of the peloton.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) then put in a trademark late attack with 4km to go, provoking Movistar, Astana, Dimension Data and Etixx-QuickStep to take over from Team Wiggins at the front of the bunch.


Watch: Marcel Kittel interview


Gilbert’s move was short-lived as the sprinters’ team jostled for position on the wide road. Etixx-QuickStep looked to have it nailed, and Kittel finished off their hard work.

In contrast, former Etixx rider Cavendish’s new lead-out at Dimension Data appeared to falter, leaving the Manxman with too much work to do to overhaul Kittel in the finale.

British One Pro Cycling rider Chris Opie put in a solid performance in the sprint to place seventh, notably one place ahead of Sky sprinter Elia Viviani.

Sir Bradley Wiggins finished in 121st place, three minutes and 28 seconds behind Kittel.

Bradley Wiggins chats to Philippe Gilbert on stage one of the Dubai Tour

Bradley Wiggins chats to Philippe Gilbert on stage one of the Dubai Tour

The 2016 Dubai Tour continues on Thursday with stage two from Dubai International Marine Club to Palm Jumeirah over 188km. The four-day race concludes on Saturday.

>>> Dubai Tour 2016: latest news, reports and preview

Results

Dubai Tour 2016, stage one: Dubai International Marine Club to Fujairah, 179km
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep in 3-35-21
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
5. Andrea Palini (Ita) Skydive Dubai
6. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana
7. Chris Opie (GBr) One Pro Cycling
8. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
9. Michal Kolar (Svk) Tinkoff
10. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Al Nasr Pro Cycling Team Dubai at same time

General classification after stage one
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data at 4 secs
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 6 secs
4. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 10 secs
5. Andrea Palini (Ita) Skydive Dubai
6. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana
7. Chris Opie (GBr) One Pro Cycling
8. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
9. Michal Kolar (Svk) Tinkoff
10. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Al Nasr Pro Cycling Team Dubai at same time

Mark Cavendish signs on before stage one of the 2016 Dubai Tour

Mark Cavendish signs on before stage one of the 2016 Dubai Tour

Peloton during the opening stage of the 2016 Dubai Tour

Peloton during the opening stage of the 2016 Dubai Tour