By David Hunter
Dubai – Fujairah 179km
The race begins with a potentially hazardous trip through the desert. It’s the first time the race has travelled the whole stretch between Dubai and Fujairah. If the wind blows, this could create havoc.
Looking at the forecast, the wind will be a cross/tailwind for most of the stage. It is due to reach 13mph, so not too strong. It doesn’t look like we’ll get echelons, but the sprinters will still be worried.
You can see that the road gently rises for around 30km, with a couple of short, sharp kick-ups. This is a good point to attack, but I would only expect the local teams to use that strategy. The downhill run to Fujairah will make it nice and easy to catch any breakaway. This is a sprint and we have plenty of sprinters.
All the talk is Kittel v Cavendish. Time to look at the sprint trains:-
Dimension Data – Brammeier, Eisel, Renshaw, Cavendish.
Etixx – Tony Martin, Wisniowski, Sabatini, Trentin, Kittel.
There is some speculation about the role of Matteo Trentin. If it was me, I would have him at number 2. He has started the season well and has experience of working in the Cavendish sprint train. I remember him riding at 3, back in the 2013 Tour de France. Sabatini has proven that he isn’t fast enough to ride in that position, so I expect them to put Trentin in there.
Sabatini riding at 3 gives Dimension Data a chance. Cavendish and Renshaw haven spent a season riding behind the Italian, they know his strengths and weaknesses. At times, he does lack the top-end speed required to fill that spot. That gives DD an opportunity. If they stay behind Etixx until that point, Eisel has the power to get beyond them. Once there, Renshaw is faster than Trentin. If Cavendish is going to win the sprint, he needs to start in-front of Kittel and make Marcel come round him. They need to time their attack to perfection as their train isn’t as strong as Etixx.
Cavendish has just spent some time in Australia, for the Cadel Evans race. He then flew to Dubai and will have to contend with some jet lag. Not ideal preparation for a bike race, but I’m sure he’ll cope. Renshaw has already hit some form, he is crucial to Cav’s chances of success.
It looks like Etixx are throwing everything they have behind Kittel. A good start to the year will be huge for him. The team is one long sprint train, he’ll take a lot of confidence from that. Marcel will need to change his riding style. There will be no more riding at the back of the bunch. Etixx will not tolerate such foolish behaviour. Marcel will be told what to do and when to do it. Given the freedom he had at Giant, I think he’ll actually enjoy this.
Hoping to spoil the Cav/Kittel party will be Guardini, Viviani, Nizzolo, Modolo and Lobato. 4 Italians and 1 Spaniard, it sounds like the start to a bad joke! Of these riders, Nizzolo will have the best train. After already achieving two podiums in the TDU, he arrives with Coledan, Stuyven and Van Poppel. If they really need it, they can also pull Cancellara into the lead-out. If they do, Trek will hit the front with 3km to go. It would be great to see a drag race between Cancellara and Tony Martin!
Viviani is a quick sprinter, and one who has a good record against Cavendish. He will have Ben Swift here to help, but it’s not always enough for Elia. I do underestimate him a lot, but I just can’t see him beating the big 2!
Lobato looked way off the pace in Australia, I doubt he’s found his sprinting legs just yet. Modolo and Guardini both start their season here and are also in a state of transition with their lead-out trains.
Looking to try and break into the top 5 will be Michael Kolar and Andrea Palini. Both have a chance, but need a large slice of luck.
The big man is back, Marcel Kittel for the win. His lead-out train looks very strong.
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