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DUBAI (AFP) — Former world champion Mark Cavendish took the overall lead at the Dubai Tour after winning Wednesday’s opening stage in a sprint finish.
The Briton held off Italians Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Elia Viviani (Sky) following the 145-kilometer route from the Dubai International Marine Club to Union House Flag.
Cavendish, the 2011 road world champion, launched his sprint finish a touch too early after his sprint train, with Australian Mark Renshaw as last leadout man, broke up in the final run-in.
“We planned our leadout to go in the last few kilometers, but it was so windy there we had to use everyone to stay in the front even in the last 20 kilometers,” Cavendish said in a team release.
As he approached the line, Cavendish was nearly caught by Guardini. A photo finish confirmed the Etixx-Quick-Step rider had won.
The Manxman admitted, though, that the final sprint had not entirely gone to plan.
“Ideally I wanted to leave it late because it was a cross headwind in the finish, [but] Sky went on the left early,” he said.
“Renshaw just stayed calm, used them to pick up some speed in the slipstream, then he overtook and he started the leadout and I felt [Ben] Swift go on the left. I had to go then.
“Not out [fear of] of Swift getting the jump on me, so much as other sprinters might have gone with him and got the jump.
“So I went earlier than I [would have] liked, but I know I’ve good form and I was able to hold it. So, I knew it was OK when I went.
“I knew I was on top of the sprint, but I felt Andrea Guardini coming faster than me. I was happy to just hold on until the line.”
The Dubai Tour finishes in front of the Burj Khalifa on Saturday at the end of the fourth and final stage.
Each stage starts from the Dubai International Marine Club. Thursday’s stage 2 stretches 187km.