Dubai Tour: Cavendish defends title with new team

Some of the contenders for the Dubai Tour 2016 including defending champion Mark Cavendish (third left) on the eve of the race. (Supplied)

Defending Dubai Tour champion Mark Cavendish goes into the 2016 edition, which starts on Wednesday, looking for his first win since joining South African team Dimension Data.

The Briton won the overall title last year while still with Etixx Quick-Step thanks to victories on the first and fourth stages.

Cavendish left Quick-Step at the end of last season to join the first African cycling team to take part in the Tour de France, MTN-Qhubeka, who have since been renamed Dimension Data.

The 30-year-old, who has won 44 stages on Grand Tours, is looking forward to getting four days on the road under his belt ahead of a busy season.

"I've raced in the Dubai Tour the last two years and I've enjoyed it, especially with winning it overall last year. I've come back with not much road racing under my belt, but I know from the track that my sprint is good," Cavendish said.

"I'm here racing for Dimension Data with a very strong team on the road. I just like it here in the UAE - people are great and the race has everything I like.

"My daughter wants to be here too, she likes the towers!"

This is the third time the Dubai Tour has been held, and it will have by far its most impressive start-list so far.

Cavendish will have to battle with the likes of German Marcel Kittel and Italians Elia Viviani, Andrea Guardini and Sacha Modolo if he is to get off the mark for the season.

"I've already experienced a happy time at training camps and during the whole preparation for the new year. Here at the Dubai Tour, I want to show my motivation, and get the confirmation that the pre-season work pays off," said Kittel, who has taken Cavendish's place as Quick-Step's main sprinter.

It is not only the sprinters who are under the microscope this week though.

Swiss veteran Fabian Cancellara, German time-trial specialist Tony Martin, former world road race champion Philippe Gilbert of Belgium and 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins will all be taking part.

It is a rare road outing for 35-year-old Briton Wiggins as he will focus on the track this year ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Games, and the four-time Olympic gold medallist was quick to temper expectations.

"Don't expect too much from me! Unlike everyone else, I'm not hoping to achieve anything this week," said Wiggins.

"The Dubai Tour is one of the four road races I'll be doing this year."

With bonus seconds on offer for stage victories, Manxman Cavendish will still fancy his chances of holding onto the blue jersey that goes to the winner of the General Classification.

The route:
Wednesday (stage 1): Dubai Marine Club to Fujairah, 179 kilometres
Thursday (stage 2): Dubai to Palm Jumeirah, 183 km
Friday (stage 3): Dubai to Hatta Dam, 172 km
Saturday (stage 4): Dubai to Business Bay, 137 km

Previous champions:
2014: Taylor Phinney (USA)
2015: Mark Cavendish (GBR)

 

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