British sprinter Mark Cavendish said that it was hard to get a clear sprint during the opening stage of the Dubai Tour, with riders cutting across the front of the bunch
Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) triumphed on a stage to the Palm Jumeriah that was always likely to end in a bunch sprint. He and fellow podium finishers Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) had clear air between them and the rest of the peloton as others jostled for position behind.
Cavendish, who finished outside the top ten, said the first sprint he has been involved in this season had been dangerously unruly.
“It was chaotic at the finish I was terrified for my life,” the Dimension Data captain said.
“I wasn’t trying to fight to get on a wheel, I was fighting to dodge guys who were turning left across the peloton. The UCI ruled over the winter that it was alright to cut across the peloton so I guess everyone was doing it now.”
He added: “I wasn’t able to sprint at all there was a couple of spaces at 3-400 metres to go that I thought I’d go in but then someone, for some reason, was going the other way so…”
The Manxman had been caught behind a crash at eight kilometres to go but was brought back into position by his team.
“It took a bit of energy,” he said of moving back up the bunch. “I was behind the crash, skidding, but I got through. It didn’t affect the finish.”
UAE Emirate sprinter Alexander Kristoff’s assessment of the sprint mirrored Cavendish’s though he pointed to the easy riding that had been done throughout the rest of the stage.
“Everyone came in fresh and that’s always more dangerous because everyone thinks they can win. For sure it was dangerous, there was the crash and there were many almost crashes. That’s part of sprinting but today was pretty chaotic and I was even braking with 400m to go and I wasn’t the only one,” he said.
“People were left and right and then you have a clear shot at the finish you look down and sprint and then you look back up and suddenly it’s not clear any more,” the Norwegian, who finished fourth, added.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the day’s winner Groenewegen didn’t share his fellow riders’ concern. “Sometimes sprinting is dangerous but that’s sprinting. You can also sprint in a straight line but that’s not a sprint,” he said.
Cavendish, despite his concerns over how Tuesday’s finish panned-out, didn’t seem unduly worried about his safety in the three further likely sprint finishes to come at the Dubai Tour.
“I’m worried about every sprint nowadays not just the ones here,” he said.