• Mark Cavendish opened his 2017 account with a Stage 1 win in Abu Dhabi. (ANSA)Source: ANSA
Mark Cavendish has opened his 2017 season account with a stage win at the Abu Dhabi Tour to which he is an ambassador.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
24 Feb 2017 - 7:23 AM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2017 - 1:56 PM

Cavendish was clear of a crash in the closing kilometre that removed Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) from contention, the Manxman cruising to victory ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida).

The win was Cavendish’s first of the season following a quiet start at the Dubai Tour and Volta ao Algarve earlier this month where Kittel and Greipel, respectively, prevailed.

“My team did everything right. If I had of lost today I would have had a lot of grovelling to do,” Cavendish said.
The former world champion was third on the same finish last season and said revision along with his Dimension Data teammates made the difference.

“We did make a conscious effort to study last year what we did, and do the opposite. We did exactly as we planned,” he said.

Australian lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw put in an especially notable performance in the home straight. Asked in a press conference to run through the final kilometre of the 189km pancake flat stage Cavendish said, “I just followed Mark Renshaw.”

Kittel landed on his stomach in the crash that he and Sky rookie Owain Doull precipitated, locking handlebars on a corner at the flamme rouge toward the end of what had otherwise been a humdrum stage.

“It’s very unfortunate but it happens. I think I can be lucky the way I crashed on the front of my body that I have so far nothing worse than just some skin off. We were there at least so the team is on the right way without question,” Kittel said.

“I will lick my wounds now and see how it goes tomorrow.”

Ewan looked sore and despondent beyond the finish line, seeking medical treatment from team staff a day after he described the sprint field here as the best he’d with competed with since turning pro.