Blazin' Saddles

Weekly round-up: King Kittel a giant amongst men in Dubai

Blazin' Saddles

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A lot of balderdash is often written about riders peaking too soon - but if anyone should rein things in at this early stage in the season it's Giant-Shimano's Marcel Kittel.

The 25-year-old sprinter this week notched two-from-two in sandy Dubai, showing a savage array of sprinting skills to take the spoils over vastly differing terrain - winning a routine bunch dash on Thursday before holding on in the hills to surge clear of a trimmed group of 30 on Friday.


So routine was Kittel's victory at the chintzy themepark of Atlantis that the German didn't even bother celebrating properly, raising just one arm after badly-positioned rival Mark Cavendish sat up 500m from the finish.

Asked after his first major win of the season (the People's Choice Classic in Adelaide really doesn't cut the mustard - Ed) whether he was now the fastest sprinter in the world, Kittel's smile said it all really - even if the affable youngster was diplomatic in his verbal response.

"So far everything is going according to plan but I think I have to prove it a few more times," he said.

"Mark [Cavendish] wasn't there in the final so maybe something will happen in the next few days and we'll have a direct dual."

Well, one day later, Kittel took his first step in proving "it a few more times" by powering clear on the left-hand side of the road in Hatta while all eyes were on the boxed-in red jersey of Cannondale's Peter Sagan.

A series of uphill drags in the final 10km had reduced the leading group to just 30 men - and if Cavendish just about managed to stick with the leaders, the stuttering Manxman did not have enough strength to contest the finale, trickling home as the lanterne rouge of the leaders.

So far, it has to be said that the Cavendish-Renshaw reunion has been rather anti-climatic, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step misfiring on all cyclinders in the Arabian desert.

And dare Saddles say it, but Kittel is displaying the kind of form that may make German terrestrial TV reconsider their on-going blanket ban of Tour de France coverage.

At this rate, Kittel will win a lot more this summer than the four stages he snared in the Grande Boucle last July...

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Positive PR for Wiggins

Morale may be low at Omega Pharma-Quick Step, but at Cavendish's former home things seem to be all hunky-dorey.

At a Team Sky training camp in Mallorca, manager Dave Brailsford told reporters that the seemingly interminable story of a Bradley Wiggins-Chris Froome rift had been completely "wrung dry" and that the pair had completely buried the hatchet (and not in one another's skulls).

Not only is Wiggins on course to compete in the 2014 Tour de France, the 33-year-old will target Paris-Roubaix "as part of a Bradley strategy, not a Tour de France strategy".

The news came in the same week that ASO announced that nine cobbled sectors from the 28 sectors of Paris-Roubaix will feature in stage five of the Tour.

These sectors will include the five-star difficulty sections Carrefour de l'arbre and Mons-en-Pevele, although the race will be run in the opposite direction.

Brailsford admitted that the cobbled Classics remained a "gaping hole" in Sky's palmares and hoped that Wiggo's participation would rectify that, dispelling the claims that cobbles are tantamount to kryptonite for Team Sky.

"I've come into this season wanting to race - like in 2012," said superman Sir Brad.

Wiggins also claimed that he wanted to succeed where many Mods failed and break America, with a tilt at the Tour of California title.

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Cameron's blog 'Wurf' a look

In a typically candid blog entry by Cameron Wurf, the 30-year-old Cannondale rider described in glorious detail how he and fellow Tasmanian Riche Porte celebrated the latter's 29th birthday with a 403km training ride around the rolling roads of the north-east of the island.

Wurf claimed he had no idea it was Porte's birthday when they met up for their ride - and that it wasn't until around 100km into their dusk-till-dawn marathon that his companion mentioned it.

"I was immediately pretty touched he chose to spend every daylight hour of his birthday on his bike with me," wrote Wurf, who had already ridden the 194km up from Hobart to Launceston the previous day.

"I can't remember a period of more than 30 seconds when we were not chatting. Sure I could talk under water with a mouthful of marbles so I probably kept the conversation going a little more than Richie, but I am pretty sure it was more often than not a two-way conversation."

The pair rode the final 40km in the dark with Wurf's dad acting as a safety car and Porte's mum heading to her son's favourite burger joint to pick up dinner and beers for the boys (they had burned off 11,400 calories during their 13-and-a-half-hour epic).

All the training almost paid off: in stage three of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour a few days later, Wurf was narrowly pipped for victory after a three-man break held on in the hills.

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Burger king Horner pretty in pink

Talking of burgers, Chris Horner - a man who once attributed the early career wins of his 30s to "happily chowing down on McDonald's" - was unveiled as an official Lampre-Merida rider this week.

The 42-year-old updated his Twitter profile picture accordingly and now the balding goofy veteran can be seen grinning in the eye-catching pink-and-blue official kit of the Italian team. Horner will be aiming for a lighter shade of pink this May when he tackles the Giro d'Italia before switching his attention to the defence of his Vuelta crown later in the summer.

Asked about Horner's much-publicised love of cheeseburgers, Lampre team manager Brent Copeland admitted that "if he rides like he did at the Vuelta, he can eat cheeseburgers every day".

In words that hopefully won't come back to haunt him, Copeland added: "It's difficult to change the mentality of veteran riders. If they're used to following a program, then we're open to it."

Felix Lowe | Follow on Twitter

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