ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Britain’s Mark Cavendish won the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, outsprinting his rivals to snatch the overall lead in a crash-marred climax on Thursday.
The Dimension Data rider beat German Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Italy’s Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrein Merida) after a perfect lead-out from his team mates at the end of a 189-km flat ride.
German Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors) and Australian Caleb Ewan (Orica Scott) both crashed with one kilometer to go and could not contest the final sprint. Both rode their bikes to the line with bruises.
“I was in the wheel of (team mate Fabio) Sabatini as we were closing in on the line, then Owain Doull came from the back and our handlebars got stuck in each other, and I crashed and lost some skin,” said Kittel, who sustained bruises on his knee and elbow.
Ewan was sent to a hospital for checks after hurting his shoulder, his team said.
“The boys were in a good position and we were set for a great final,” said Orica Scott sports director Dave McPartland.
“It looks like Caleb took a good hit to his shoulder. It doesn’t appear to be too bad but he will go to the hospital to double-check things.”
The second stage in the four-day race will take the peloton on a 153-km ride, with sprinters again set to take center stage.
The overall result is expected to be decided in Saturday’s third stage with Tour de France runner-up Romain Bardet, of France, Italians Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru, Spain’s Alberto Contador and Colombian Nairo Quintana expected to shine in the mountains.
Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Neville Dalton