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Sprinters continue to get the measure of one another ahead of the Spring Classics

Joseph Delves
1 Feb 2017

Cavendish misses out as Kittel takes second stage at Dubai Tour, while Démare pips Kristoff to the win at Étoile de Bessèges

February's early season races are providing a sneak peak at the form of the big sprinters.

Without many mountains the Dubai Tour is where most of the sprinters face off for the first time.

During the opening stage it was Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) who came out on top, ahead of Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).

However despite his third place Cavendish was clearly up for the fight, contesting the last three kilometers with a flat tyre and still managing to nab a spot on the podium.

Unfortunately having again shown himself to be in good form he was still unable to improve on that performance today. 

Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport) and Pete Williams (One Pro Cycling) got into the break early and hung themselves out in the desert wind for most of the stage.

By the closing kilometre the race came back together for the inevitable sprint finish.

Boxed in and without a coherent leadout train to pull him to the line Cavendish found himself struggling to reach the front.

By contrast Quick-Step Floors were able to set up their rider Kittel to fend off a challenge from Groenewegen, who started strongly but faded to find himself second for the second consecutive time.

Coming up fast behind him was Cavendish, who looked to have the speed to overtake Kittel, but instead found himself stuck behind the rapidly slowing Groenewegen.

Cavendish eventually ended up seventh and shaking his head, with Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina) coming in third.

While the experience of failing to get around his rival will be frustrating for Cavendish, in terms of the raw speed exhibited by the Manxman means his team director is unlikely to be overly concerned by the lack of wins so far.

Also finding reasons to be cheerful despite coming in fourth on both stages was John Degenkolb of Trek–Segafredo. Having recently switched teams he found his new squad coming together nicely. 

‘Some of the fastest guys are here, so it's hard to compete against them, you need to be perfect, but I think we can be happy,' Degenkolb said after stage two in Dubai. 

'If we time it a just a little bit better… We are up there,’ he added. A sentiment echoed by his leadout man Koen de Kort, who describe their train as ‘almost perfect’.

Meanwhile in a somewhat cooler France the five day Étoile de Bessèges kicked off with a sprint stage that was won by Arnaud Démare (FDJ) who came in ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin).

With the first sprinter’s Classic of the season, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, coming up at the end of February the riders will be looking to size each other up over the remaining stages of both races before they meet in Belgium.