Crash takes Kittel out of contention in Abu Dhabi opener
Final kilometers of the day were peppered with crashes, and the Quick-Step Floors rider was among those involved.
Stage 1 of Abu Dhabi Tour was all about the final kilometers, as the fast men of the peloton were expected to fight in a sprint royale for the victory and the first leader's jersey of this year's edition. Until then, six riders animated the day as part of the breakaway, but they didn't get to pose a threat for the pack, despite taking their advantage to more than five minutes in the first part of the stage which traveled from Baynounah Educational Complex to Madinat Zayed, over 189 kilometers.
Petr Vakoč was among those to pull hard at the head of the bunch, chewing into the escapees' advantage and making sure they'd get caught before the real action of the day kicked off. In the final kilometers, which were really frantic and messy, Quick-Step Floors moved to the front and provided Marcel Kittel three teammates to lead him out, but unfortunately a crash under the flamme rouge took the German to the ground. With the group split, it was a reduced bunch gallop in the end, won by Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), ahead of André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida).
Marcel crossed the line a few minutes later, but with the crash occurring in the last three kilometers, he got the same time as the winner. Following that incident, the Quick-Step Floors rider was left with several abrasions on his knee and elbow, but his participation in stage 2 isn't put under any doubt.
Before going into the team bus, Marcel –winner of the Dubai Tour this season – explained what happened: "I was in the wheel of Sabatini as we were closing in on the line, then Owain Doull came from the back and our handlebars got stucked in each other, and I crashed and lost some skin. Things like this happen when everyone is nervous in the final and wants to be in the front. It's a pity, because I felt good today and the team worked really well. It's a bit of a setback, but at the same time it motivates me even more for the next stages."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele