Mark Cavendish comes barreling over the finish line, clenches a fist and looks like that same maestro we’ve seen light up many Tour de France stages over the years.
France may be a far cry from the streets of Fujairah – but the Dimenson Data rider looked in emphatic from as he cruised to victory on Stage 3 of the Dubai Tour – claiming a first UCI stage win since February 2017.
A bout of glandular fever and a dislocated shoulder may have curtailed his usual sparkling form for large parts of last season, but the 32-year-old looked back his best on Thursday.
“I’m very happy. We had a plan to be in the front few at the roundabout with 3km to go. I was lucky that Nacer (Bouhanni, Team Cofidis) let me in with a few hundred metres to go on the attack,” said Cavendish.
“I realised I can’t match Elia (Viviani, Quick-Step Floors) in a track sprint so I had to leave it late and wait until he passed his initial peak and he was settled into his sprint. I used my jump to pass him. It’s a gamble but it paid off.
“Any time of year, it’s important to win. Already with this win, I’ve won the same amount of races I won in the whole of last season.”
Cavendish looked utterly dominant – and Thursday’s stage win means he trails new leader Viviani by four seconds as the riders gear up for the 172km hilly stage from Dubai to Hatta Dam on Friday.
Although he was elated to win in the port of Fujariah, the Manx Missile voiced his disappointed about Wednesday’s finish in Ras Al Khaimah where he eased off towards the end and finished fourth.
If the Briton had pushed in those final metres and gained an extra position or two then he would have been wearing the leaders jersey in Fujairah.
“I was just disappointed that I sat up with the sprint yesterday. I was angry with himself. I let myself and my team down,” he said.
“Technically I could be in the jersey if I didn’t sit up yesterday. I wouldn’t have won but I could have come second and got the time bonuses.”
His building form certainly represents a significant boost though as Cavendish embarks on a month-long schedule in the Middle East.
After Saturday’s finish in Citywalk, the team will depart for the Tour of Oman before returning to the Emirates for the Abu Dhabi Tour on February 21.
He said. “Any win for any sprinter adds confidence. I’m normally near my form in July but I’m happy with my form for February.
“I had a strong winter and I wanted to come in early season and continue to hit the ground running here.”
British sprint king Mark Cavendish earned his first win of the year by claiming victory in the third stage of the Dubai Tour on Thursday.
The 32-year-old former world champion edged out France's Nacer Bouhanni and German powerhouse Marcel Kittel at the end of the 180km stage from Dubai to Fujairah.
Alexander Kristoff continued his strong start to life at UAE Team Emirates as he secured a 7th place finish during stage three of the Dubai Tour.
It was Kristoff’s third top-10 finish this week having finished 4th on stage one and 7th on stage two.
Mark Cavendish barreled over the finish in triumph following a 183km ride from Skydive Dubai to the port town of Fujairah.
It was a commendable performance nonetheless from Kristoff, who said: “Our lead-out train was perfect and we were at the front in the right moment, but we had no luck. We were boxed in to the left and couldn’t find any open road to accelerate.
“If we could have found some space, I feel I would have had a better chance of competing for the victory as my legs felt good today.”
Meanwhile, Yousif Mirza, who finished 17th, said: “Friday and Saturday could be interesting opportunities for joining breakaways, with the target of the intermediate sprint jersey.
“My direct opponents did not obtain points today, so the ranking is still very open and I’m sure tomorrow there will be battle in the early kilometres.”