By David Hunter
Abu Dhabi – Abu Dhabi 134km
The last of the sprint stages.
Only 134km long, this is a very easy day for the bunch.
Hot, with a little wind coming from the north.
Kittel Watch(Back by popular demand!)
47km – the big man is right at the front of proceedings, as his team and Movistar look to split the race.
42km – the split has been made and Kittel as at the front of the race! His teammates are doing lots of work, allowing him to rest and not take many turns, unlike many of his rivals. This is looking promising.
18km – Viviani and Kristoff get back to the front group. Don’t worry Marcel, you can take them!
7km – chilling in the bunch with his pals.
4.5km – Katusha take to the front and have five men ahead of Kittel.
4km – on the wide highway, we have Jumbo, Sky and QuickStep moving to the opposite side from Katusha. Drag race!
3.7km – most teams are following Katusha. Just three men ahead of Kittel.
3km – no change, but soon Kittel will only have two men left, Dowsett is doing a lot of work.
2km – Dowsett fading badly and the Katusha train is losing ground to the boys on the other side of the road, where Jumbo are doing all the work. QuickStep are still sitting in the wheels.
1.6km – Katusha are losing gas, they are now getting swamped by other teams, with Kittel dropping back a little.
1.4km – most teams are jumping from the right to the left. The rats are abandoning the Katusha ship.
1.1km – Kittel is sitting deep and only has one men in front of him.
1km – we hit the left turn and QuickStep move to the front for the first time. This means Viviani has four men ahead of him. Kittel is now sitting very far back.
800m – Viviani sits in 11th wheel, Kittel in 27th.
500m – the sprint is full gas, with Sabatini moving Viviani up the final positions. Big Marcel is nowhere to be seen.
250m – the sprint is launched and Kittel is freewheeling to the line.
0m – awful tactics from Katusha, they are starting to look desperate.
A lazy bend with 1.2km to go, followed by another corner at 300m. The approach roads are nice and wide, allowing for sprint trains to battle each other for control of the bunch. If you boss the first corner, you have a great chance of victory.
Elia Viviani – took a fantastic win today. QuickStep nailed the lead out and their Italian smashed the sprint. He has made a magnificent start to the year and QuickStep will be delighted with their new signing. Going into this stage, his lead out will again be important. With Bauer, Hodeg, Mørkøv and Sabatini, they have the firepower to control the closing kilometres. It will then be over to Viviani, to deliver another victory.
Caleb Ewan – after strong showing in stage 1, Ewan wasted too much energy in the crosswinds. When other sprinters were sitting in the front group, Ewan continued to ride through and off. At the time, I questioned this move, and as a result his sprint lacked some kick. With experience around him, he should have been told to let his teammates do the work. Mitchelton-Scott have a very strong final two men, they have a chance of wrestling control from QuickStep in the final kilometre.
Marcel Kittel – no, no, no.
Alexander Kristoff – great win on Wednesday, found today harder. When the bunches split, he put in a lot of work to control the gap. When we got to the sprint, this showed. Riding with a short train will be hard for him, he is used to lots of dedicated riders. Winning a second stage will be difficult, but not impossible.
Danny Van Poppel – was looking good today. 2018 has seen the Jumbo boys take massive strides forward, particularly their sprint trains. They controlled most of the final 3km, but QuickStep slipped passed them at the end. I said at the start of the race, Van Poppel taking a podium would be impressive, but can he go a step further?
Andre Greipel – sprint train isn’t good enough.
Another win for Elia Viviani, only Ewan can stop him.
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