Marcel Kittel won stage four and therefore the overall title at the Dubai Tour, but that wasn't the only talking point from the four stages this week
Giacomo Nizzolo blew the chance to take the overall win
In the heat of a sprint finish it’s easy to find yourself in the wrong position and that’s exactly what happened to poor Giacomo Nizzolo on stage four.
Wearing the leader’s blue jersey after a fantastic run of results over the first three stages, Nizzolo needed to finish at least second to Marcel Kittel in order to win the overall title.
Given his hat-trick of podium finishes in stages one to three the smart money was on the Italian to win the general classification, what with Kittel having to rely on the bonus seconds on offer.
But as Fabian Cancellara smashed out his legendary pace at the front of the peloton in the last kilometre, Nizzolo found himself in no man’s land and couldn’t make his way through the battlefield up to the front again.
Marcel Kittel did what was needed of him.
When he needed to win, Marcel Kittel won big. But even winning wasn’t necessarily enough to guarantee Kittel the overall title, but winning was the only way in which he could take it.
It’s remarkable how much difference a few months makes in the world of cycling. Even in October 2015, Kittel looked like a shell of his former self, on his way out of Giant-Alpecin after a hugely disappointing season.
But move forward four months and the German powerhouse looks to be back to his best. Knowing that he had to win the final stage, I, for one, couldn’t see anything else happening as the day progressed.
That’s why Kittel is so great for cycling – he was by far the fastest man at the Dubai Tour and if he showed that if he’s in position at the end of the stage he will win. And to stop that happening the other teams have to rely on better tactics to overcome him, as a head-to-head showdown will not work.
One Pro Cycling don’t look like fish out of water
The main difficulty for a team stepping up from Continental to Pro Continental level isn’t necessarily struggling to compete with the big boys, but just getting your name out there and being invited to the big races.
Teams like One Pro Cycling aren’t really expected to challenge for stage wins when up against the likes of Kittel and Cavendish, but One did outstandingly well to pick their targets and hit them.
Each day, One got a rider out in the breakaway to give their sponsors some air time – an underestimated necessity in this day and age for the smaller teams – and in the process Marcin Bialoblocki wrapped up the intermediate sprint classification.
Showing this competitive spirit, and not simply settling for a supporting role in races like the Dubai Tour, will stand out to organisers of other races who will want to invite One to their races throughout the season.
Love them or hate them, bonus seconds are great for a race like the Dubai Tour. In a place where there aren’t really any hills to shake up the general classification, something needs to be done to separate the riders.
Over four stages, and one slight hill at the end of one of the stages, the sprinters came out on top thanks to the bonus seconds they accrued in the stage finishes.
The topography of Dubai means that even though there’s a ‘summit’ finish at the Hatta Dam, it’s not really hard enough to separate the sprinters and the climbers.
The bonus seconds picked up over the four stages have led to a change in race leader every day, excitement on every stage and the race was on the line coming down to the last kilometre of the race.
Mark Cavendish’s topsy-turvy race
It’s been an up-and-down week for defending champion Mark Cavendish. He came into the race not really expecting much, given the amount of time he’s spent training on the track over the winter, but you don’t win 44 Grand Tour stages without a bit of racing nous.
Even though he isn’t in mid-season form, the Manxman was in the frame in the two sprint finishes that he really contested – coming second on stage one and third on stage four.
On stage two he was held up by a crash in the final three kilometres, ended up battling Grzegorz Stepniak (CCC Sprandi) for 10th place and headbutting the fella in the process.
Then, on stage three, he suffered a puncture in the last 10km, lost six minutes by the finish and lost his key lieutenant Bernie Eisel with a broken collarbone.
Cavendish surely won’t be too worried about not defending his title – he’s got much bigger objectives later in the year.