Overnight, Taylor Phinney kept hold of the leader’s blue jersey to claim the GC in the Dubai Tour, while Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) asserted his dominance in the sprints with his third sprint victory.
Continuing his blistering early season form, Kittel took the sprint from the front, to beat Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Andrea Guardini (Astana). Kittel had clearly dug deep for his effort, as he sat down on the pavement almost immediately after he crossed the line. [quote_box_center] “I’m super happy,” he said after the finish. “But I’m totally dead now. The final was really fast. I lost my boys at 2km metres to go, just before the bridge. [/quote_box_center]
“It was amazing how Tom Veelers brought me back to the front. Like out of nowhere, the rest of the team where there to do the lead-out. I think that today we did a brilliant job as a team, a big thank you to my team.”
Kittel has set the benchmark for the season and seems the man to beat in the sprints this year, sending a clear message to Mark Cavendish and Co. that they will have to be at the top of their game if they want to beat the German flyer. Added to the two stages he already won during the race and his victory at the Down Under Classic, Kittel has got off to a flying start this season. “It’s absolutely the best ever start for my in professional career for me so far. I did a great Tour last year and for sure that helped me in my development as a rider. It simply makes you stronger. I had some good training throughout the year and I’m super happy that can start with such good shape in 2014.”
Kittel’s sprint rival Cavendish, the Manx Missile was nowhere to be seen at the finish, after the Manxman hit a bollard and dropped his chain in the run-up to the finish. His lead-out man Renshaw had to pick up the baton and ride the sprint for himself. The Australian managed to finish second, but he was no match for Kittel.
Race leader Phinney finished safely in the bunch, on what was a relatively uneventful day for the BMC rider. The American maintained the 15 second gap over his team-mate Steven Cummings that he brought into the stage. Lasse Norman Hansen (Garmin-Sharp) rounded off the top-3.
Phinney’s BMC team did much of the controlling during the day, keeping their rider safely up front. After assuming the lead on day one, he could finally relax in the knowledge he’d won the general classification.
“For sure I’m relieved,” Phinney spoke at the stage finish. “Every day I felt like it was my race to lose, so every day I felt relieved. Having a great team around me gave me a lot of confidence these days. After performing well yesterday, I knew that today, barring disaster, that we would be coming here with the overall win. I’m super happy, super relieved and I know that the boys are really happy. I’m just glad that we can celebrate as a team.”
Phinney has come out strong this year and he puts his early season success down to an issue free off-season. “I had a really strong winter,” he explains. “I haven’t had a problem free winter, injury and sicknesswise, ever and this was my first really solid winter. I had a really great time in the US back with my friends in Boulder, Colorado. Then I had a really solid month of training in San Diego.
“I always had my personal soigneur with me. I invested a lot into this year, I knew that it would be an important year. So, I’m super happy with this season and getting results straight away and restoring my team’s belief in me. It’s been great.”