Abu Dhabi Tour race leader and stage one winner Mark Cavendish pays tribute to Caleb Ewan's sprint on stage two, despite being pipped on the line by Marcel Kittel
Cavendish said: “Today in all honesty, without taking anything away from Marcel, Caleb was the strongest and I couldn’t match him. I knew when we turned right with on kilometre to go into a block head finish that I was a bit too far forward and it was going to be a hard sprint into the headwind.
“Whether it was prior tactics or through no fault of his own, Marcel ended up behind and with his strength and coming from behind he’s going to be 5kph quicker.”
He added: “Ideally, from a physical point, you want to be a bit further back in a headwind finish but then you run the gamble of being caught in the wheels. Better to play it safe, especially when in the jersey.”
The Manxman, who retained the leader’s jersey for another day, said it was difficult to use the Australian to sling-shot himself in the sprint.
“I’ve never sprinted off Caleb before and it’s the first time I can understand what it’s like for people to sit on my wheel. When you’re so small there’s no difference when you move out of his slipstream from being on the wheel. Ultimately, Caleb was better, but Marcel rode a better race,” he said.
When asked about Ewan’s early celebration error he said: “I don’t think I’ve lost a race like that since I was a junior. I did it once in the Junior Tour of Ireland. I’ve won a few races because of it. Scheldeprijs, I think was one of them.
“It’s part of it, it’ll always happen. At the end of the day, Marcel was coming really fast… Its hard on Caleb but it’s not like he was celebrating 20 metres before the line.”