Marcel Kittel hailed a confident performance from his Quick-Step Floors team-mates that resulted in his first victory of 2017 on the opening stage of the Dubai Tour, but urged caution at this early point in the season insisting “it’s a reminder you win like this when you work hard”.
The win was the German’s first race of the year and saw him go head-to-head in a bunch sprint with some of his major rivals.
Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished in second and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) – who rode the last three-kilometres of the race with a rear tyre puncture – third, while John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Elia Viviani (Sky) rounded out the top-five.
“I’m very happy to see that we started with a victory, that we started with such a lead-out, because it gives also confidence to everyone in the team,” Kittel told press after the stage that finished in front of the impress Atlantis hotel resort on Dubai’s The Palm islands.
“It’s always good to remember that it’s the 31st January today still and until my personal season highlight for example [the Tour de France] it’s still five months to go.
Watch: Dubai Tour 2017 stage one highlights
“It’s nice to start like this into the season but it’s only a reminder that you win like this when you work hard, when you dedicate yourself to a goal and you have to keep doing that for the rest of the season.”
Kittel won two stages and the overall in Dubai last year, but now in his second season with the Belgian squad he admitted his lead-out train feels much more comfortable.
And while his was the last to appear at the front of the peloton, only emerging with around three kilometres to go, the 28-year-old had five team-mates supporting him to deliver him within metres of the line.
“We did a very good job, the first race of the year you’re always insecure,” he continued. “You can have the strongest team in the world, but even then maybe that’s a point to be the most insecure because you don’t know how well everyone plays together.”
He previously said he was using the race as a test for the technology, and is the only rider in Dubai using discs – something he admitted had resulted in a number of questions from others in the peloton during the stage.
“I still think I made the right choice,” Kittel said. “I got a lot of questions, a lot of riders came to me today saying how is it and telling me their opinion. They did not always agree.
“I cannot say so much because I was lucky enough that I did not have to use them too much today especially in the final so that was good.”
He continued: “A lot of the guys were curious, they wanted to know how it feels to ride with the discs. It’s actually a strange question because normally everyone knows it from the mountain bike, from the cross bike. But still, it’s a little bit different on the race bike when you really hit a lot of high speeds.
“Some guys also said they don’t really get why we should change to disc brakes.”