The Dubai Tour has been a race of sprints ruled by Marcel Kittel (Quick Step-Floors), and Saturday was the last chance for the team and John Degenkolb to try and snatch another victory and unseat the king from his throne. But when the desert dust settled for the decisive time, Kittel had notched his third win and the overall title, while Degenkolb settled for fifth and the third step of the general classification podium.
It was a messy ending to the 124-kilometer race that concluded in the city center. Trek-Segafredo, whose leadout train has been spectacular in previous stages, lost each other in the whirlwind of the final kilometers. However, it was the chaos in the last 300 meters that inflicted the most impairment to Degenkolb when he was caught in the middle of a traffic jam and unable to launch his sprint in time.
"It was hard to stay together today, and make a good leadout," Degenkolb explained. "We lost each other already with three kilometers to go. We tried to improvise the best we could, and in the end, it was Kiel [Reijnen] who delivered me in still an okay position into the last corner on Marcel's wheel. But then there was some confusion as Cav let a gap to Renshaw, and that caused a kind of traffic jam in front of me, and I couldn't really start the sprint. Marcel picked the right moment to go out and did a long sprint, he was the strongest by far anyway, but I think I could have done better than 5th. That was unfortunate, but that's cycling. I still felt okay to start a good sprint, but in the end, there was not enough space to start early enough, and it was too late.
"Another lesson today for the team in working for the leadout. The team can be proud of what we achieved this week, and I am very happy of the trust that the team has in me. I was every stage in the top five and one victory, which was the goal for the week. We go home with happy faces and a lot of gained experience."
Koen de Kort added his perspective of the final kilometers, which, he agreed, were the worst of the team's leadout from the four days:
"Today was not perfect. We got very boxed in just ahead of the right-hand turn with about 1300 meters to go. This was our meeting point to stay together, and unfortunately, we lost each other just before that. I tried to go around the left to get back to John who was on the right side; at least Kiel was still with him. But, yeah, it was kind of a mess.
"The others days we stayed together and stayed calm. We have had three sprints here until now and today was the day we kind of stuffed it up a little bit. But we can still be happy that John was still on the wheel of Marcel at the end. Almost the worst-case scenario for us and we still came out in a good position.
"We can still be really happy with the work we have done this week. It's the first time for me riding with all these guys except for John. I have learned a lot again, and I think I can take this with me to the next races. We have done a few near perfect leadouts and some where we can still improve. In the end, we will come out better and stronger."