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Cavendish wins two stages at Abu Dhabi Tour

George Wallis-Ryder
24 Oct 2016

Mark Cavendish caps off successful year with two sprint victories at final road race for the season

Mark Cavendish backed up his silver medal performance at the previous week’s World Road Race Championships in Doha with two stage wins at the Tour of Abu Dhabi.

Dimension Data sprinter Cavendish held off the challenge of Trek-Segafredo’s Giacomo Nizzolo to take victory on the fourth and final stage at the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit, having also won Friday’s sprint to the line over Sky’s Elia Vivani.

Astana’s Tanel Kangert won the Abu Dhabi Tour overall after winning Saturday’s third stage, which finished on the climb of Jebel Hafeet.

‘I'm so happy to be the winner of the final stage,’ Cavendish said yesterday. ‘I missed the race last year because I was injured and I was really jealous of the boys racing. My teammates controlled the group really well the whole day. I got an incredible lead out.’

The race marked the end to a busy road season for Cavendish which included the Tour de France, Olympic Games and World Championships. But it was a season full of successes as he claimed four stage victories at the Tour, an Olympic silver medal, as well as a World Championship Silver medal.

‘I'm very happy with the season. I had some big targets this year and I achieved them or came very close,” Cavendish added. ‘Ideally I would like to win everything I do – that's my nature – but I gave my best.’

Despite taking a haul of 32 wins this season, a question mark hangs over the future of both Cavendish and his Dimension Data team. The South Africa-based outfit is in line to lose its ProTour licence under UCI plans to trim the number of teams in pro cycling's top division from 18 to 17.

How the Abu Dhabi Tour was won

Stage One, Madinat Zayed, 147km

A four-man break containing Orica-BikeExchange pair Michael Matthews and Jens Keukeleire, Gatis Smukulis (Astana) and Dion Smth (ONE Pro) built up a lead of over two minutes before Team Sky, Trek-Segafredo and Dimension Data combined to reel them in. This set-up a final sprint between Cavendish, Trek’s Italian national champion Nizzolo and Giant-Alpecin’s John Degenkolb. Nizzolo was able to snatch the win, picking the right moment to open up his sprint which couldn’t be countered.

Stage Two, Abu Dhabi, 115km

Another flat stage began with a small group heading off the front, and it very nearly succeeded, managing to stay away until 850m from the line before being caught. Team Sky and Trek both set the pace to catch the breakaway riders, and the British team had everything set up for Viviani to take a sprint victory. Cavendish had other ideas, however, and after losing his leadout man Mark Renshaw, was able to battle alone, sticking to Viviani’s wheel before coming around him just before the line.

Stage Three, Al Ain - Jebel Hafeet, 150km

Featuring the race’s only significant climb, stage three was set to decide the overall winner of the Tour, with the last 11km averaging around 7%. Like the World Championships, crosswinds caused splits in the peloton, with Team Sky leading the charge. Cavendish was able to make the front group, along with the main GC contenders, including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). However, a group of three containing Carlos Verona (Orica-BikeExchange), Nicholas Roche (Sky) and Tanel Kangert (Astana) emerged to fight it out for the win. Verona ran out of steam and Roche cracked soon after, allowing Kangert to solo to the stage and overall victory.

Stage Four, Yas Marina Circuit, 143km

The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour was raced entirely on the Yas Marina F1 circuit under floodlights, which led to a high average pace that often threatened to split the bunch. Overall leaders Astana shared pacing duties with Dimension Data, who were able to ensure Cavendish was in a winning position by the final sprint. The Manxman was able to hold off Nizzolo, despite the Italian’s late surge for the line. 

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