The Abu Dhabi Tour could have continued with its steady script, but the riders decided to “smash each other” in stage two and created some perfect Classics preparation.
Team Katusha-Alpecin took control in the increasing Arabian winds with around 80 kilometres from the finish along the Yas Beach in Abu Dhabi.
They played for the victory – Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) won the stage – but also reminded themselves of what is to come in the Classics starting next month in northern Europe.
“It was super easy, then we knew there was going to be a possibly of some crosswinds stuff, and when you know that, we could collectively get together and ride easy to the finish for a sprint but everyone started smashing 10 bells out of each other,” Katusha-Alpecin’s Alex Dowsett said.
“It was cool because there were some big names that missed the cut, all of Team Sunweb, Alexander Kristoff, Viviani wasn’t there – it was looking pretty good.”
Dowsett turned around to see the team’s classification leader Ilnur Zakarin and sprinter Marcel Kittel in the front group. Luke Rowe, who is hoping to return to the Classics after a leg fracture, also made it for Team Sky.
“You can do damage on the GC as well as riding for the sprinter. It was a productive day for us even if it came back together.”
Dowsett should slot into some of the Classics this year and hopes to make the Paris-Roubaix roster again.
Rowe savoured the day with an aim of joining Sky’s Classics team.
“You look at yesterday and you probably don’t get a lot out of it,” Rowe said. “Then you have today, when we had about one hour at full-gas, that is great and that’s the stuff you need.
“It’s like the Tour of Qatar used to be, for the whole stage every day, and that’s why you had the whole Classics field there.
“It’s good fun when you are going full-gas, doing 60K an hour and your heart rate is over 190 the whole time. It’s perfect.”
Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and many other classification stars, could use the days as practice for the stressful grand tour days when the winds roar.
“Classics-style? Yeah, bit it’s also how you see it happening in the Tour some times,” Aru said. “These are important days for riders.”
“Today was an interesting day, for sure,” Viviani said after his fourth victory of the year.
“You always see us really active in this type of day, you see the mechanism for the Grand Tours too. The team worked really well, it’s the same work if it’s in a five-stage race or in a Grand Tour.”