Cavendish had a clear run to the line and was out ahead of the pack in the early stages of the sprint but then Viviani came past him to claim the win and Cavendish sat up coasting to fourth place.
“It was a fair drag strip, I couldn’t have gone harder I thought he was going to die before me but he just accelerated,” the Manxman said.
Cavendish, who is riding his first race of the season, said the Specialized Venge ViAS that Viviani and his Quick-Step Floors team ride was a more aerodynamic bike than his own Cervelo S5 (as has been proven by Cycling Weekly‘s own aerodynamic testing) but that that hadn’t been a decisive factor in his defeat.
“I should be able to make up that advantage, I’ve usually got more watts. I was just beaten that’s it,” he said.
Watch: Dubai Tour stage two highlights
When asked if Viviani’s race schedule, which has included the Tour Down Under, where he won a stage, and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, had helped him arrive in the Middle East in better shape, Cavendish said: “It doesn’t matter what the reasons are that he’s better than me today at the end of the day he beat me. I’m happy for him I wish him a happy birthday today.
“Marcel [Kittel] won here the last couple of years, I think it was Quick-Step that made the difference there. I won here with Quick-Step and they are showing it again they’re the strongest team here.”
The British sprinter, who had been among several top fastmen who bemoaned the chaotic nature of the previous day’s sprint, added: “The team were definitely better than yesterday, probably a bit too eager because I was on my own in the final. It was still sketchy still hectic bodies everywhere… Ultimately these race are harder for a sprint because we just bowl along most of the day everyone is fresh at the end and everyone gives it a go.”
Birthday present for Viviani
Viviani, for his part, said Cavendish had “put me on the limit in this sprint”.
The Italian, who finished third in Dubai Tour’s opening stage, said: “I’m surprised about my form. I am 2kg heavier than when I was in top form last year. I had a good winter I didn’t do anything special but I feel really in good shape even on the short climbs.”
Viviani turned 29 today and said the win was the best cycling birthday present he’d ever had.
Having won two races already this season Viviani appeared very happy with his switch to Quick-Step from Team Sky. “I think this is the season when I can focus on my road sprinting. When I signed with Quick-Step I knew the next three or four years can be the best of my career… There is no excuses because we have a really strong team.”