Dubai Tour 2016 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

By David Hunter

We are ready for the 3rd edition of the Dubai Tour, as the professional peloton begin three weeks in the desert sun.Dubai-Tour logo

2015 saw the organisers try to shake things up a little and they introduced the finish at the Hatta Dam. They liked what they saw and it’s back, although they claim to have made the finale a little harder, it actually looks easier to me. They have removed the challenging  Khalba Road Tunnel and the riders now head straight to the dam wall.

You might remember the Mark Cavendish was actually dropped on the Khalba climb but managed to catch the peloton thanks to the excellent work of Etixx. No worries this year, we should have a full peloton as they turn right onto the wall.

The other three stages are all for the sprinters. They showcase the wealth of Dubai, which is great if that interests you. For the real cycling fans, this is often a race lacking in soul. There are very few fans on the side of the road, such a shame when we have some of the best sprinters in the world!

Bonus seconds are hugely important. In 2015, Cavendish finished 10 seconds behind John Degenkolb, on stage 3, but thanks to two stage wins and a second place he won the GC. A similar thing could happen in 2016. The challenge for the puncheurs is to beat the sprinters by enough on the climbing stage, but that is tough. The wall is just a bit on the short side, at 200m. Cavendish will be confident of a similar finish this year.

The main taking point of the race is the battle between Cavendish and Kittel. We all know that the German had a year to forget, but he’s now with Etixx and looking good. Cavendish has also switched teams, now with Dimension Data. He had a good year, but really had a lesson handed out to him at the Tour de France. Both riders have something to prove.

Cavendish might be on a new team, but it’s a familiar looking sprint train. With Renshaw and Eisel in front of him, it is reminiscent of the HTC days. I would expect to see Matt Brammeier slotting into the number 4 position. Cavendish and Renshaw are great together and both look to be in shape. Renshaw has been working hard over the winter(Aussie summer) and took two second places in the TDU. Cavendish has been riding on the track and is looking leaner than I have seen him for a while. They will start strong.

Kittel has to get used to a new sprint train, but it’s very strong looking. He can call upon the help of Tony Martin, Nikolas Maes, Julien Vermote, Matteo Trentin, Lukasz Wisniowski and Fabio Sabatini. Make no mistake, they are all committed to helping Marcel take some early wins. This race is huge for his mental and emotional state. A good start will wipe away the memories of 2015. It’s going to be tough for him to win the GC as the dam will be very difficult for him, but you just never know!

Cav and Kittel aren’t the only sprinters here. We are in for a treat as joining them are:-

Andrea Guardini – Astana

Sacha Modolo – Lampre

JJ Lobato  – Movistar

Andrea Palini – Skydive

Elia Viviani – Sky

Michael Kolar – Tinkoff

Giacomo Nizzolo – Trek

Andrea Guardini is a master of races in this part of the world. He is missing some of his best lead-out riders, but he is very good at looking after himself. In the sprints he will be getting help from Ruslan Tleubayev. Do not underestimate the Italian, I have done so on too many occasions!

Lobato was awful in the Tour Down Under. He and Rojas seemed to be working against each other, not with each other. Things should be a little better here as the team arrive with a couple of big engines, ideal for stretching out the bunch. In Gorka Izagirre, he does have a rider he works well with. It will be interesting to see if Lobato is better for the race in Australia, or if his poor form continues.

Nizzolo was okay in Australia. This was much better than previous years, so he’ll be quite happy with his form. He will have Marco Coledan, Jasper Stuyven and Boy Van Poppel at his disposal. That is a strong looking lead out. Expect Nizzolo to be challenging for stage wins. Can he eventually convert those second places into wins?

Viviani is still furious after San Luis. He thinks he was robbed by a teammate, but he was just beaten by a faster man. He needs to suck it up and come back better. With Fenn and Swift, he has two riders that will help him into a good position. Like Guardini, he goes well in this part of the world. I expect him to be faster than he was in San Luis.

Andrea Palini is a rider often overlooked. He used to ride for Lampre but this is his second season with Skydive. 2015 was a very good season, with seven wins in small races. He also competed very well in the Dubai Tour. He has started 2016 well, taking two wins in the Bongo. This is his biggest race of the season, expect him to come out firing!

Sacha Modolo starts his first race of the year. He has lost the services of Max Richeze, something that will be a devastating blow to him. Lampre really need to take a long hard look at themselves. Together, they formed an impressive partnership, without him, Modolo will find life very hard. They will hope that Roberto Ferrari can fill the void, but that is wishful thinking. Ferrari now moves from position three, to two. They are lacking a quality rider at number three. We all remember how good they were at the Giro, riding as a threesome. I feel sorry for Sacha.

Away from the sprinters, we do have a few GC contenders:-

Lars Boom – Astana

Philippe Gilbert – BMC

Simone Ponzi – CCC

Giovanni Visconti – Movistar

Fabian Cancellara – Trek

As previously mentioned, it is going to be hard to take enough time on the sprinters. However, if the sprint stages are shared out, it does open the door to these riders. The race is going to come down to seconds. That should keep us entertained!

Cancellara has started the season in tremendous form. This is his last season and he already took a win in Mallorca. To win the Hatta Dam stage, you need lots of power. That is something Fabian has plenty of. It would be great to see him put the sprinters to the sword. If he isn’t ready, Jasper Stuyven is another potential candidate. Remember, you need plenty of power to win the stage.

You would normally associate Philippe Gilbert with this sort of race, but he was only 8th here in 2015. This is his first race of the season and he might be a little behind the riders coming from Australia, Argentina and Spain. Time will tell, but the Dam stage should also be great for him.

Prediction Time

He might struggle to beat Kittel, but Cavendish will still be able to take plenty of bonus seconds. The Dam stage is easier than 2015, so I think Cavendish will retain his title, as Kittel will struggle to haul his impressive frame up the wall.

David HunterFollow us on @CiclismoInterJoin us on facebook: Ciclismo Internacional

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