Riders welcome decision after 4th stage of Dubai Tour cancelled
With a weather-enforced surprise 'rest day' the riders visited Stage 4's finish venue, the amazing lake at Hatta Dam
Top riders welcomed the decision to cancel the fourth stage of the Dubai Tour in Hatta on Friday after blustery conditions made it impossible to race.
The route for the fourth stage was changed on Thursday night after the riders had to deal with a vicious sandstorm in the third stage.
The Dubai part of the fourth stage was cancelled and it was supposed to start from Hatta Club stadium and finish with a steep climb to the majestic Hatta Dam.
But winds kept blowing relentlessly at a frightening speed, eventually forcing the Race Management and Commissaries Panel to apply the UCL's extreme weather protocol and cancel the stage.
The organisers took the important decision keeping in mind the safety of the riders who have a whole year of racing ahead of them.
And the man who benefitted most from the cancellation of the stage was none other than the one leading the Dubai Tour - Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors).
Kittel, one of the best sprinters in the world, would have faced an uphill battle against John Degenkolb who won the third stage in Fujairah on Thursday.
Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) was confident of replicating his last year's Hatta Dam win to challenge Kittel in the overall standings.
But now the final stage in Dubai on flatter roads will give Kittel the perfect chance to become the first man to retain the Dubai Tour title.
"I think everyone can see that it's very, very windy today. It's a very extreme weather condition. All the riders are happy with the decision made by the organisers," Kittel told reporters on Friday.
"I think it's a very important decision for the riders' security. Today it was simply not possible to race. I really respect the organisers for the decision they have taken," the 28-year-old German said before the tent was almost blown away by a gust of wind, cutting short his hastily organised Press conference.
British great Mark Cavendish also lauded the organisers for cancelling the stage.
"They took the right decision taking into consideration the safety of the riders. To do a bunch race was possible in trying to find a solution to counter the windy conditions. Personally, I'd like to race but I think realistically it was impossible today," the Rio Olympics silver medallist said.
"The race committee made a wise decision to protect the riders and I take my hats off to them."
Cavendish said the riders and the teams were totally committed to racing in perfect conditions.
"Coming all the way to Hatta (from Dubai) shows the willingness from all the teams and their riders to compete," he said.
"No one was looking for a day off. We made a five-hour trip to get here to try and make it happen. It is disappointing that I can't get back into the race and win it, but then there is hardly anything that I can do about the weather conditions."
The final stage on Saturday will run through the heart of Dubai city, passing iconic landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and the Meydan Racecourse before reaching the finish line at City Walk on Jumeirah Road.
It's the kind of stage that would bring a smile to Kittel's face which was left in a bloody mess by a punch from Ukrainian rider Andrey Grivko in the third stage on Thursday.
Grivko was later disqualified from the race, but Kittel would hope to get the perfect revenge by doing what he does best -sprinting to the finish line in magnificent style.