• (L-R) John Degenkolb (Trek Segafredo), Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Mark Renswhaw and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) discuss stage 4 and the wind (Dubai Tour)Source: Dubai Tour
An unofficial meeting of minds within the peloton helped implement an Extreme Weather Protocol and cancel stage four of the Dubai Tour on Friday.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
4 Feb 2017 - 9:10 AM  UPDATED 4 Feb 2017 - 9:13 AM

Senior riders from a majority of race teams gathered by a car at the start to determine a collective position before taking it to tour officials.

Dimension Data road captain Bernhard Eisel, Australian veteran Rory Sutherland (Movistar), race leader Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) and Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo) were among the ‘boys united’ that harmoniously agreed to either opt for a time trial or not race due to the strong gusts of wind and sand.

“I’m not one of the big riders but I translate for my [Spanish] team and it’s a unanimous decision I think from everybody,” Sutherland said.

“It’s one of the first times all the cyclists have actually come together and we were all there discussing it. We all agree it’s too dangerous; it’s a question of safety not everything else. Even the guys on GC, who want to win the race and have the chance to win, they all agreed as well.

“If the organisation said we had to do it I think we’d all just roll down the road and stop, all the riders together.”

Organisers RCS Sport and the Dubai Sports Council overnight cut the stage by 63km, scheduling a revised afternoon start in Hatta, over Dubai, in anticipation of windy conditions that caused unrest during stage three.

The entire race caravan made the two-and-a-half-hour transfer to Hatta, but worsening gusts and rain on the way and at arrival immediately caused conjecture as to whether the stage should run. One official shook his head, suggesting not.

“We thought the chances of it going ahead were slim but at least it shows willing from all the teams, riders, organisation that they wanted the race to go ahead,” Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) said.

“It wasn’t like we looked for a day off; we’ve all made a five-hour [round] trip now to try and make it happen.” 

Sports directors, a selection of riders and officials were called to a meeting inside the Hatta FC stadium by the start line where options were thrashed out. Eisel said the peloton suggested competing in a short, individual time trial up the ramps to Hatta Dam instead of the truncated road stage but it was overruled.

Ultimately, the decision was made to cancel the queen stage that could have impacted on the general classification with the short but steep climbs to the finish in an otherwise flat tour.

“It’s not possible to have a radically different stage because it alters the nature of the race. A time trial would penalise teams who came here with a team selected for the sprints. It just wouldn’t be fair for everyone,” RCS Sport head of cycling Mauro Vegni said.

Weather forecasts were for gusts up to 65km/h when the stage would have taken place.

“We hoped that things would have been okay after moving the stage to the Hatta Dam area and cutting out the long, exposed section in the desert. We hoped the hills would have protected the race and that the rocky landscape meant there wouldn’t be a sandstorm. However, the wind blew down the valleys and was so strong that it was moving the cars on the way here,” Vegni said.

Eisel praised RCS Sport, who he said had a history of honouring rider interests and safety.

“The riders are really thankful and we definitely accept that decision,” he added.

“The organiser made a big effort to make the race happen, it’s just weather you can’t predict.”

All dressed up and nowhere to race, the riders made the best of it.