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Kaden Groves would have preferred first or second but wasn’t complaining about a third-place finish behind Fernando Gaviria and Mark Cavendish on stage one of the Tour of Oman, which he now sees as a level playing field.
The 23-year-old took confidence from not only his performance on Thursday but what it meant for the general direction of his BikeExchange-Jayco team, which is in the process of switching its orientation from general classification back to sprinting.
The recent acquisition of Dylan Groenewegen has significantly boosted that shift, and the Dutch star already appears to have rubbed off on his teammates in the right ways.
Speaking after the finish on Thursday, Groves was happy with how his team worked in the finale of the 138km stage, especially neo-pro Campbell Stewart, who in his first race with the squad positioned the Australian on Gaviria’s wheel with about 500m to go.
“Campbell’s first race with us today … so he is looking good for this year, and we’re really motivated to build the sprint team,” Groves said.
“Now with Dylan on the team, I think it lifts the level of everyone. It’s a really good thing.”
BikeExchange-Jayco was not one of the highly touted sprint teams coming into the tour, but Groves said the outfit held its own against Gaviria’s full-strength UAE Emirates lead-out in what he described as a messy kick to the finish line outside the Oman Exhibition and Convention Centre.
“We came off on the left-hand side with pretty much a full team and then UAE had control with [Max] Richeze and Gaviria taking it up with about 500m to go,” Groves said.
“But apart from that, there weren’t too many organized teams, apart from us and UAE, so I think we did a really good job there.
“Campbell did a good job to hold me there long enough so I could get into the wheels. I was passed by Cavendish with about 100m to go maybe, so he looks like he’s in pretty good shape, too, but Quick-Step don’t have their usual sprint team here, with [Michael] Mørkøv and those guys, so I think it’s a pretty even playing field for the rest of the week.”
Groves, who also claimed with best young rider jersey, will get another chance at line honors on stage two, provided crosswinds along the route, which follows the coastline, don’t spoil plans.