Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) recovered from a puncture with 20km to go to take his second victory of the season as he edged out race leader Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) on stage two of the Dubai Tour.
Third on the opening stage, Viviani made his way into the perfect position in the final kilometre as the various lead-out trains struggled to control a messy finale.
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The Italian sprinter made his move with 200m remaining, jumping out of the wheels to first hold off the challenge of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) – who would eventually finish fourth – and the fast accelerating Groenewegen to take the victory by half a bike length.
However second place for Groenewegen ensure that the Dutchman held on to the overall lead, although Viviani was able to move within just two seconds of the leader’s blue jersey.
How it happened
The second stage of the 2018 Dubai Tour saw six riders go clear as soon as the flag dropped, with Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Racing), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Fuwen Xue (Mitchelton-BikeExchange), Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk), Mohamed Al Mansouri (United Arab Emirates) and Yousif Mirza (UAE Team Emirates) quickly opening a lead of more than seven minutes after 20km.
With a long day in the saddle ahead, the peloton wasn’t in any rush to chase the break down, but did at least bring it to below two minutes with more than 60km remaining before Mirza and Van Hooydonck decided to sit up and drop back to the bunch to leave just four riders still at the head of the race.
UAE national team rider Mansouri was the next rider to fall back from the break as Edet, Xue, and Planet persevered even as their lead dropped below a minute for the first time with 25km remaining.
By the time the Italian’s wheel was changed he was more than a minute off the front of the bunch, but quickly had team-mates around him as he set about moving back up through the cars eventually regaining contact with 17km remaining.
The catch of Edet and Planet, the final two escapees was finally made with nine kilometres remaining, with the lead-out trains taking up position at the front of the bunch.
The final couple of kilometres remained messy as Katusha-Alpecin’s lead-out riders tried to create a high pace but without Marcel Kittel anywhere to be seen, before Viviani found himself in the ideal position with 300m to go.
The Italian jumped out of the wheels at the ideal moment as Cavendish attempted to come around the outside before falling back. Instead the main threat came from race leader Groenewegen, who accelerated alongside Viviani but was unable to come past before the line, allowing the Quick-Step Floors sprinter to celebrate victory.
However second place meant Groenewegen maintained his overall lead by two seconds over Viviani.
The 2018 Dubai Tour continues on Thursday with a 183km stage from Skydive Dubai to Fujairah.
Dubai Tour, stage two: Skydive Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah, 190km
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, in 4-34-31
2. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
3. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Astana
4. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
5. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
6. Magnus Cort (Den) Astana
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
8. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing
9. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
10. Adam Blythe (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 8-25-50
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, at 2 secs
3. Nathan Van Hooydonk (Bel) BMC Racing, at 9 secs
4. Magnus Cort (Den) Astana, at 9 secs
5. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Astana, at 10 secs
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates, at 12 secs
7. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, at 16 secs
8. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
9. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
10. Jacob Hennessy (GBr) Mitchelton-BikeExchange, all at same time