Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) won stage five of the 2017 Dubai Tour to also wrap up the overall win, as gear problems cost Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) probably his best chance of taking a stage victory from the race.
Cavendish had enjoyed an excellent lead-out from his Dimension Data team-mates, who controlled the race through the final kilometre, with Mark Renshaw leading the peloton through a tight right-hand bend with around 400m to go.
British champion Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) was locked on Renshaw’s wheel, with Cavendish in close attendance behind his compatriot. But that’s when a mechanical issue seemed to strike Cavendish, as he looked around, seemingly having a problem with his gears.
While Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC Racing) went early on the left of the road, Cavendish’s momentary crisis was all that Kittel need to strike, accelerating clear on the right to take the stage win ahead of Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and impressive Italian neo-pro Riccardo Minali (Astana).
Perhaps the most exciting period of the stage came at the very start, with a ferocious battle at the front of the peloton as numerous breaks went away before being pulled back into the main field.
In fact, it was not until the 40km mark, nearly a third of the way into the 124km stage, that a break finally managed to escape, with Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana), Matteo Bono (UAE Abu Dhabi) being the first to get away, quickly being joined by Floris Gerts (BMC Racing) and Ivan Garcia (Bahrain-Merida).
With such a short stage, the escapees were only allowed a maximum gap of 1-30, with Bardiani-CSF being the first of the sprinters’ teams to hit the front as the gap began to fall with 50km remaining.
The gap first fell below a minute with 35km to go, and was only going in one direction, with the peloton soon having the break in its sights on the wide, straight roads of Dubai.
The sprint trains started to form with 12km remaining, with Dimension Data cutting a lonely farrow for Mark Cavendish on the left of the road, while Quick-Step Floors and Trek-Segafredo remained in perfect formation on the right.
With the upping of the pace on the front of the peloton the break was caught with 9km to go as the stage made its way towards a sprint finale.
Into the final 5km and there was plenty of scrapping between the sprinters, but it was still Dimension Data who led into the final kilometre as the sprinters fought to be in a good position for a tight right-hand bend with just 400m to go.
And it was Renshaw of Dimension Data who led into that turn, with Blythe in his wheel and Cavendish behind.
However as Cavendish suffered a problem with his gears, it was Kittel who seized the initiative, powering clear of his competitors to take his third win of the race and successfully defend his overall title.
Dubai Tour 2017, stage five: DIMC to City Walk, 124km
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, in 2-34-12
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
3. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Astana
4. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
5. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
6. Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Abu Dhabi
7. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing
8. Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
9. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
10. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo, all same time
Final general classification
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, in 15-08-56
2. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo, at 18 secs
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo, at 20 secs
4. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing, at 24 secs
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky, at same time
6. Thomas Stewart (GBr) One Pro Cycling, at same time
7. Riccardo Minali (Ita) Astana, at 26 secs
8. Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Dimension Data, at same time
9. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data, at 27 secs
10. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar, at same time