Mark Cavendish: Caleb Ewan was the strongest today

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

(Image credit: ANSA)

Dimension Data sprinter Mark Cavendish has praised up-coming sprinter Caleb Ewan after they both lost out to Quick-Step Floors rider Marcel Kittel in the sprint for stage two of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

Cavendish placed third on a very close-run stage, where Ewan led until the last metre when he began to celebrate the win only to have Kittel come round the pair to snatch it from his grasp.

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.

>>> Caleb Ewan: ‘celebrating too early was a massive rookie error’

“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.”

Marcel Kittel wins stage two of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour. Photo: KT/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images
(Image credit: KT/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

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.

>>> Marcel Kittel comes from nowhere to edge out Ewan and Cavendish in Abu Dhabi Tour

“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.”