Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory on stage two of the Tour of Oman to claim his first victory of 2022.
The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider timed his sprint perfectly to beat BikeExchange-Jayco's Kaden Groves and Amaury Capiot of Arkéa Samsic in Suhar Corniche on Friday. The bonus seconds he gained through the win means that he climbs into the red leader's jersey, nine seconds ahead of UAE-Team Emirates' Fernando Gaviria.
The Colombian won the opening sprint on Thursday, but Cavendish out-sprinted all of his rivals on the second day, to claim the 157th victory of his career.
It means that he is just one behind André Greipel in overall wins, and Sean Kelly on 159, Mario Cipollini with 161, and Rik Van Looy and Roger De Vlaeminck on 162 all within a few more wins.
The Manxman also holds the lead in the points classification. Stage three features a short climb to the finish, which could see the race lead pass to a punchier rider.
It is the best start to the season for Cavendish since 2013, when he won a stage of the Tour de San Luis on his first day racing.
Groves, who finished second, described the second stage as a "pretty boring day". The 167.5km-long stage saw a two man breakaway of Antonio Angulo from Euskaltel-Euskadi and Stephen Clancy of Novo Nordisk gain four minutes on the peloton, but they were always kept in check and were brought back with 30km to go.
Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl and BikeExchange-Jayco controlled things, and a late attack from Burgos-BH's Gabriel Muller amounted to little. A roundabout with 2.5km to go saw the leadout trains form, and Cavendish expertly used his team to power to victory.
"I was looking forward to this sprint," Cavendish said. "It was similar to a Tour de France one, with a long finishing straight of over one kilometer. Everyone on the team was committed and did a great job, and coming into the stage I had a lot of confidence from yesterday’s good work.
"When the sprint started, I was a bit far back, but I had a good speed and I am happy with the way things panned out. It’s been only a few weeks since I returned on my bike following that crash on the track, so I am quite satisfied with my form."
"It was a pretty boring day, it was a bit annoying with the wind direction," Groves, who finished third on stage one, said.
"[There was a] crosswind all day, but nothing strong enough to cause any splits," the 23-year old said. "The guys did a really good job, we decided to leave the run real late. It's a small peloton here, so we figured we could go from the back to the front quite easily and yeah we did that.
"We lined up the full team, used all our guys, into the roundabout 2.5km to go. In the end it worked out really well. It was a bit sketchy in the final straight cos the wind was right on the side. Good legs, I put myself in a good position to win, and I was beaten by fast men at the end of the day. It's nice to be consistent."
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