The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour brought our 2016 season to a close and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka couldn’t have asked for a better ending as Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory, thanks to a perfect leadout by our African Team.
The final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour took place under the lights of the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi this evening. The peloton lined up for 26 laps of the flat 5.5km circuit, with a sprint finale on everyone’s mind. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were fully concentrated on delivering Mark Cavendish to what would be our 32nd victory of the season and so when a 5-rider break went clear early on, we had no problem helping to control the pace.
Jay Thomson and Mekseb Debesay were rolling through with the Astana Team, who were riding in defence of the overall race lead. This would be the case for around 120km and then our African Team just took full control of proceedings for the final 25km. Thomson and Debesay relayed at the head of affairs to close the 1’15” gap to the lead riders while Cavendish lined up behind his lead out team of Bernie Eisel, Youcef Reguigui and Mark Renshaw. Thomson and Debesay were truly phenomenal, only pulling off of the front with 7km to go when the last of the breakaway riders were brought back into the fold.
Eisel then captained our train as we started the final lap, keeping our Manxman well placed heading into the final few corners. Eisel hit the front with 2km to go and when he was done, Reguigui followed with his maximal effort. Despite a Giant-Alpecin rider slipping into our train before the final corner at 300m to go, it was like poetry in motion watching our African Team perfect the finale. Renshaw led through the last right-hander and when the road opened for Cavendish, there was no stopping the Manx Missle from winning on the home straight. The stage podium was completed by Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) respectively.
It was a beautiful stage win to end off what has been a fantastic season for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, made sweeter with Cavendish also winning the Abu Dhabi Tour green points jersey.
Mark Cavendish – Rider
The stage was left to Dimension Data to control, none of the other sprint teams wanted to help at all which was quite strange because we have won a stage and they haven’t. Nevertheless, we have the two strongest guys in the race to pull on the front in Mekseb and Jay. They just controlled the break incredibly and stayed so long that the leadout could take over easily. They gave us stability at the front and I had Bernie, Youcef and Mark to lead me out in the final 2km and they did an incredible job. It was important to be at the front because there was a lot of wind and a lot of corners. Giant nearly got the jump on us so I thought it would do me a favour if one of them gets in between myself and Mark, so I let him in but he couldn’t hold Mark’s wheel in the sprint. I was still able to use his slingshot and then Mark’s slingshot in front to accelerate in the last 200 meters. I am really happy to have won the stage again. It’s another win and good exposure for our sponsors and Qhubeka, so it was really nice to be able to do that.