Mark Cavendish launched a throwback sprint to snatch an unbelievable win from the jaws of defeat in the Tour of Oman Stage 2. It was the Manx Missile’s 157th professional win in his career and the first one in 2022, despite a sub-par leadout once again. 167,5 kilometre long flat stage profile was perfect for Cavendish.
The Last Kilometre
Given that there was no live coverage, you must forgive us for skipping to the final kilometre, of which we do have some footage. Perhaps there was a breakaway, perhaps there was not, we will never know.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team’s sprint train with Masnada, Schmid, Steels, Van Tricht, and Keisse was not particularly helpful for Cavendish in the second stage in a row. Again, Cavendish needed to fight for the wheels in the end by himself and was detached from two lead-out men who moved up the right hand side without him.
In the last 500 metres, Cavendish’ position was even worse than in stage 1, where he lost to Fernando Gaviria. Once again, veteran Maximiliano Richeze and the rest of the UAE Team Emirates train delivered the Colombian sprinter in the perfect position at the front with Cavendish already eating wind moving up five bike lengths back on the open right side.
Cavendish started his sprint early. He did not have a choice. He launched and got into as aero a position as possible, barely visible in the beginning of the helicopter shot of the sprint down below.
With this victory, Cavendish has showed that even without the best lead-out man in the world Michael Mørkøv or Quick-Step’s A Team sprint train, he is still able to win and sprint at a very high level. Perfectly positioned Gaviria finished 4th getting overpassed in the last metres by young Australian Kaden Groves and Amaury Capiot, who has started the 2022 season very well. The Arkea Samsic sprinter at age 28 won his first pro race in the French 1.1 classic Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille La Marseillaise at the end of January and finished 2nd in Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969 – Gran Premi València to start the year.
The question of which sprinter Patrick Lefevere should send to the Tour de France is still open (and does not close until Quickstep line up for the first stage in Denmark). Dutch star Fabio Jakobsen is provisionally selected for the Tour based on early comments from the team, but if Cavendish will continue to perform at a high level in the spring or Jakobsen’s level drops off, then the decision will be made harder for Lefevere. There is the allure for sponsors of the Manxman beating Eddy’s Merckx Tour de France win record – Cavendish and Merckx are both equal with 34 wins.
Stage 3 will be the first non-sprint stage in Tour of Oman 2022. The 2.8 kilometre long and 7% steep Qurayyat should be a good test for climbers and puncheurs to compare their strength in advance of Green Mountain this weekend. Likely contenders for the stage win include Italians Filippo Zana and Fausto Masnada as well as Rui Costa, UAE’s GC leader for this race.