Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were on song during stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour as a perfect leadout from the African Team delivered Mark Cavendish to victory. The minor podium placings went to Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) respectively. It was the first World Tour victory of the season for Cavendish and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka.
The opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour presented the crowd with the sprint finale they were expecting and it was the superior leadout that won the stage today. When the early breakaway of the stage was reeled in with 15km to go, the respective sprint teams began to organise their sprint trains. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka remained calm at the rear of the peloton, waiting for the right time to move up.
After Daniel Teklehaimanot did a mountain of work to bring back the early breakaway, it was Igor Anton that led our African Team to the head of affairs with just 10km to go. It was a tough battle to stay organised at the front of the race as the wide road made it easy for teams to move up the sides of the peloton. Johann van Zyl and Bernhard Eisel were going shoulder to shoulder with the other trains as Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Mark Renshaw and Mark Cavendish stayed in the wheel.
It was extremely difficult keep in formation but Eisel marshaled the troops well. With 4km to go our Austrian powerhouse brought Janse van Rensburg, Renshaw and Cavendish back to the head of the race. A strong pull by Eisel then had our finishing trio head into the all-important final left hand corner with 1km to go first. In the corner there was a crash but as we were leading, Cavendish was unaffected.
Our South African champion then turned on the power down the finishing straight before giving way to Renshaw, who began the kick for the line. Bonifazio realised he was behind the 8-ball at this point and decided to go early from 2 places back, but all this did was provide Cavendish with the final slingshot to take the victory.
Mark Cavendish – Rider
The team was fantastic, really the lads did a phenomenal job today and I can’t fault anyone in the team. We knew that last corner was where it was going to count though and we had to get there first. We were hugging the barrier and I think it was a new guy from Orica, who tried to come up the inside. When I saw the barrier I thought, ah no, there is no way you’ll get your whole team through there and next thing we heard the crash behind. I hope everyone is alright from that crash. Through the corner when Reinie went, the South African champion, you actually have to tell him to slow down because he is so strong. He just gave us so much speed and then Mark could go. I wanted to go a bit late obviously with the wind, but Bonifazio went early which played into my hands because I could just bounce off him and go through. I’m really happy with the win and the jersey obviously, this is a special race to me and its great motivation for the whole team.
Roger Hammond – Sport Director
The team worked really well today. Everyone was involved from Merhawi our climber, through Daniel and Igor who is also saving himself for Saturday. They all chipped in to make sure the guys were dropped off for the sprint. We knew we needed to be in the first 5 guys after that corner and they executed it perfectly. From kilometre zero to the end they executed the plan perfectly and the end result is a win. Everyone is really happy and can be happy with their own performances.