Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka) took his first win of the season when he outsprinted Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) at the end of the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour today. It also marked the first World Tour win of the season for his team.
When the early breakaway of the stage was reeled in with 15km to go, the respective sprint teams began to organise their sprint trains.
With 4km to go, Cavendish’s team mate Bernhard Eisel brought Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Mark Renshaw and Cavendish to the head of the race. A strong pull by Eisel ensured that this trio went into the all-important final left hand corner with 1km to go first.
At that corner, a crash brought down a number of riders including another of the favourites – Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors).
Bonifazio decided to go early but Cavendish was on his wheel. The Manxman came around him to take the win with Greipel having to settle for second and Bonifazio holding on for third
Mark Cavendish – “The team was fantastic, really the lads did a phenomenal job today and I can’t fault anyone in the team. We knew that last corner was where it was going to count though and we had to get there first. We were hugging the barrier and I think it was a new guy from Orica, who tried to come up the inside. When I saw the barrier I thought, ah no, there is no way you’ll get your whole team through there and next thing we heard the crash behind. I hope everyone is alright from that crash.”
“Through the corner when Reinie went, the South African champion, you actually have to tell him to slow down because he is so strong. He just gave us so much speed and then Mark could go. I wanted to go a bit late obviously with the wind, but Bonifazio went early which played into my hands because I could just bounce off him and go through. I’m really happy with the win and the jersey obviously, this is a special race to me and its great motivation for the whole team.”