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It’s one thing to beat Fernando Gaviria in the Tour of Oman; it’s another thing to win against Jasper Philipsen, Sam Bennett, Pascal Ackermann, Dylan Groenewegen and Arnaud Demare at WorldTour level.
But that’s exactly what a flying Mark Cavendish did on today’s stage of the UAE Tour, edging out race leader Philipsen after the duo contested what was effectively a race. acceleration of 250 m to the line, in a headwind.
Following his victory in Oman, today’s victory is only the fifth time in the Manxman’s career (and the first since 2015) that he has won two or more sprints in late February.
Cavendish’s impressive long-range victory followed another relatively benign stage of the UAE circuit (a brief opportunity for the rungs notwithstanding), characterized by scenic roads, a sweltering headwind and the incongruous view of three Gazprom-Rusvelo riders making up the breakaway of the day. .
Bora-Hansgrohe, Groupama-FDJ and Quick Step were the main protagonists in a slightly chaotic final, Cavendish launching his sprint early by taking off a wheel from Sam Bennett which faded 250m from the finish. Philipsen looked to close in on the Manx Missile as the duo approached the line, located around a slight bend, but Cavendish had done enough for the second victory of 2022.
“I knew we could win here, but I’m happier because the team worked today,” the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider said after the finish. “A third of the team here are first-year professionals, so it’s the first or second race of their careers.
“But the way they rode today, they were like seasoned professionals. And that’s after a day of talking about how we didn’t do it right yesterday.
“Nobody panicked today – the job was to get me to the final as fresh as possible. And they did, and they did it so well that I could go 300 to 250 meters per headwind.
“But I was delivered so well, I knew I had the energy to see it through. I felt Philipsen coming fast towards me and I knew he was in good shape after his sprint yesterday , so I’m glad we were able to hold him off and get the win.
Cavendish’s blistering start to the year continues, and today’s win – won against an arguably stronger peloton than he faced in the 2021 Tour de France – certainly bodes well as he challenges fellow February in-form sprinter Fabio Jakobsen for a spot on The Quick Step team arrives in July.