No marquee fast-man has the whole support of his sprint train, with consideration given to climbers, which may see those more capable in messier finishes and less dependent on traditional lead-outs prevail.
“It’s very likely I guess,” Marcel Kittel said. “It’s always difficult to find your position in a bunch sprint but that’s also the challenge. I guess that’s something we saw in the last years, on the Grand Tours and all the other races, is a development in that direction. You don’t really need that huge lead-out train anymore. It’s probably an advantage if you have a smaller group.”
Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) is confident of his strength to compete in a scrap if necessary, referring to parts of his performance at the Dubai Tour earlier this month in which he won three stages and the overall race title with and without drilled teammates in the home straight.
“I think it worked well in Dubai on a couple of days. It also comes down to the guys you have around you because they have to think with you, for you, to which position they have to go and where they have to start, so group intelligence, or race feeling,” he said.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) is the only one of the ‘big three’ sprinters, in Kittel and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), yet to chalk a win this season. However, the Manxman is one of the most versatile pure sprinters in the peloton as he proved at the Tour de France last year, winning four stages in which sprint trains really were unable to get properly organised by way of the course.
“I’d like to win here,” said Cavendish in a more determined tone to what he spoke in Dubai.
“I was very successful last year with Dimension Data so we’d like to repeat that. As with most of the sprinters, we haven’t go full lead-out trains here. As it’s a WorldTour race there are points on offer for the general classification so we brought some climbers for the [mountain] finish in Jebel Hafeet, but we’ll be giving it our best shot on the other three stages and see where we get as a team.
“You don’t even see this field in Grand Tours anymore.”
The tour starts on Thursday with a 189km flat stage from Madinet Zayed that features a right-hand turn about 1km from an otherwise straightforward finish the peloton should be able to line out on.