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In a confused bunch sprint, Nizzolo went from afar and easily held off Degenkolb and Cavendish to win the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour; the Italian is also the first leader

Photo: Sirotti








20.10.2016 @ 14:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A few days after finishing fifth at the Worlds, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) confirmed that he is in great form late in the season when he rode to a dominant victory in the bunch sprint on the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Italian positioned himself perfectly behind Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant-Alpecin) and after a long sprint he easily held off John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) to take both the win and the first leader’s jersey.


Ever since he stepped down from the Giro d’Italia podium with the points jersey on his shoulders, Giacomo Nizzolo has been fully focused on the World Championships. He built his condition for the race in Qatar and with two late-season victories, he won the battle against Elia Viviani for team leadership.


However, the race did not go exactly to plan for Nizzolo. He made it into the first group that sprinted for the win but had to settle for fifth place. However, he was still determined to make use of his great form and he got a perfect chance to do so in this week’s Abu Dhabi Tour which has gathered a star-studded line-up of sprinters.


Nizzolo could not have asked for a better stat as he turned out to be clearly the fastest in today’s first stage which ended in the expected bunch sprint. Despite not having an organized lead-out, he managed to grab Mark Renshaw’s wheel and the Australian put him in the perfect position to go for the victory. As soon as he launched his effort, no one was even close to the Italian champion who beat John Degenkolb and Mark Cavendish with apparent ease.


The second edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour kicked off with a 147km stage that started and finished in Madinat Zayed. It consisted of a long run through the desert to the city of Liwa where the riders tackled a lap of a small circuit with a few climbs. From there, they headed back to the start finished along flat roads and finally ended the stage by doing one lap of a flat 14.5km circuit.


As forecasted, it was a very hot and sunny day when the riders gathered for the start. Only Matteo Busato (Wilier) was absent as they headed through the neutral zone.


Unsurprisingly, the race got off to a fast start with several attacks and it was the Orica-BikeExchange pair of Michael Matthews and Jens Keukeleire who managed to open the first significant advantage at the 10km mark. After 15km of racing, they were 30 seconds ahead of the peloton and moments later they were joined by Gatis Smukulis (Astana) and Dion Smith (ONE) to form the day’s break.


The peloton slowed down and so the gap had gone out to 3 minutes at the 23km mark and it was more 6.03 when Keukeleire won the first intermediate sprint in the city of Liwa. With a tailwind, it was a fast start as the riders covered the first hour at an average speed of 48.7km/h.


The peloton started to chase and so the gap came down steadily. As they hit the final 80km, it was already down to 4.05 and it had even dropped to 3.20 just nine kilometres later. Keukeleire won the final intermediate sprint in Liwa before the escapees turned into a headwind and headed back towards the start-finish area.


The headwind didn’t slow the peloton much down and the riders had averaged 45.2km/h at the end of the second hour. However, the gap was still coming down steadily. At the 100km mark, it was only 2.12 and just five kilometres later it dropped to less than 2 minutes.


Jay Thomson, Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Michal Kiwatkowski (Sky) and Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin) were sharing the pace-setting as the peloton hit the final 30km. Despite this big alliance, the escapees reacted well to the faster pace and managed to push the gap out to 2.15 at the 20km to go mark.


Suddenly, the situation looked a bit dangerous and so the chase was given more firepower. Frederik Frison took over from his teammate De Gendt, Jacopo Mosca came to the fore for Trek and Wilier also put a rider on the front.


With 15km to go, the gap was still 1.45 and the sprint team started to panic. Owain Doull (Sky), Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin), Youcef Reguigui (Dimension Data) and riders from CCC and Minsk started to chase and this had a big effect. The headwind also started to take its toll and the gap had dropped to just 35 seconds when the front group passed the 10km to go mark.


When the break was nearly caught, Keukeleire dropped his companions in a final desperate attempt to stay away but with 7km to go, the Belgian also had to surrender. Hence, everything was back together and set for  a sprint finish.


Reguigui, Frison, Valerio Agnoli (Astana) and Lukasz Owsian (CCC) led the peloton when the catch was made and then the sprint teams lined up. Trek, WIGGINS, Tinkoff and BMC hit the front on the wide road where the crosswind made things difficult.


With 5km to go, Trek took control with Kiel Reijnen and then WIGGINS came to the fore. When he swung off, there was a bit of hesitation until Dimension Data lined up their train with Reguigui and Bernhard Eisel on the front.


Reijnen came to the fore to take one final before Eisel, Mark Renshaw and Cavendish returned to the front. BMC moved up next to them with Floris Gerts, Greg Van Avermaet and Jempy Drucker and then lotted in behind the three Dimension Data riders.


Eisel kept riding on the front until less than 3km remained when CCC won the battle for the front positions ahead of a roundabout. Eisel was soon back on the front though but it was still too early for the South Africans.


With 1.5km to go, the Sky and ONE trains passed the Dimension Data riders and it was Doull, Andrew Fenn, Danny Van Poppel and Elia Viviani who took control for the former team. They were the first through the final team and it was Fenn who led the group under the flamme rouge.


As soon as they had passed the red kite, Koen De Kort sprinted on the front but he had lost John Degenkolb. When he stopped his teammate Ramon Sinkeldam started from further back as did Mark Renshaw but none of them had their teammates on their wheel.


Nizzolo was in the perfect position on Renshaw’s wheel while Magnus Cort was behind Sinkeldam. The pair both launched the sprint but the Italian was clearly the fastest. Degenkolb was behind Nizzolo but he could not even try to come around and had to settle for second, with Cavendish rolling acros the line and Cort drifting to fourth.


With the win, Nizzolo is the first leaders of the race with a 4-second advantage over Degenkolb. He will try to make it two in a row in tomorrow’s second stage which is equally and takes place in the city of Abu Dhabi where another bunch sprint is expected.



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