Above photos ©Bettiniphoto
The hyped first battle of the season between some of the world's best sprinters unfolded as predicted in stage one at the Dubai Tour, and Marcel Kittel (Quick Step-Floors) won the shootout Tuesday. John Degenkolb just missed the top three with a fourth place but was satisfied in the first test of the year.
"I think it’s a good start just to kick off the season," said Degenkolb after the finish. "For me, I am very happy how the team worked together. We did tiny little mistakes but in general the team is working well together, and it's amazing to see that everyone is aiming for the same goal. It's exactly what we wanted, to get this spirit.
"I am happy, the shape is good and I am up there with the best guys in the sprint. In the end, of course, it's a fourth place which as a sprinter and as a winner is disappointing, but yeah, we will get there. It's a good start."
The 181-kilometer stage saw sunny skies and a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius, ideal conditions for the opening stage of the five-day race. The calm conditions resulted in a sprint stage that played out to script: the peloton played the breakaway – away since kilometer two – like a yo-yo, their gap increasing and decreasing as the bunch pressed or eased off the accelerator until the catch came with a classic 10 kilometers remaining.
Then, the race was on.
The battle for the front was fierce, the pace at a max as teams tried valiantly to maneuver their fast man into position. Trek-Segafredo came to the front with Degenkolb just ahead of a tricky, tight roundabout, and it was Quick Step-Floors who led the last kilometer. Degenkolb, in good position, played off the final leadout but no one could match the power of Kittel, who also claimed the leader's jersey.