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Dubai Stage 1: Kittel Is Probably Back

The opening salvo looks very familiar

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Marcel Kittel pulled on his Etixx-Quick Step kit in a race for the first time, and proceeded to go out and do what he does, sprinting to victory in stage 1 of the Dubai Tour earlier today. Behind two teammates, including launching pad Matteo Trentin, Kittel demonstrated that neither his change of circumstances nor his lost 2015 season had cost him his pedigree as (probably) the world's fastest sprinter.

Second was Mark Cavendish, who left the same EQS team for Dimension Data and a reunion with several teammates from his ultra-successful HTC years. But regardless of who rides for whom, the showdown of Cav and Kittel ended the way they always do. In 13 sprint stages from the last several years where both Kittel and Cavendish made the top 20 (IOW, they were both present for the sprint), Kittel has bested the Manxman in every single one of them. Kittel rarely loses a sprint to anyone when he's fit, except of course to the vagueries of actually making it into the finale, which can be a problem in, say, the Tour de France. But not so much in Dubai, where he will be kicking Cav's ass all week, unless the South African Dimension Data team can come up with a plan to stop him.

Normally I don't have much to add to these winter sprints, where the results are amusing but as important to the season as your average Town Line attack. [They don't even count for the FSA DS, so there.] But in this case, the resurrection of Kittel, along with the transfer to the powerful Belgian EQS squad, were big offseason stories, and I think we can see early evidence that it's all going to work out rather nicely. Kittel was dogged by a virus for much of the 2015 season, but presumably when that was overcome, the German would return to his old self. Early evidence supports that supposition.

As for the team transfer, Patrick Lefevre is well known for bringing in top talents and exploiting their abilities, right away. Kittel could hardly have been unfamiliar with teammates like Trentin, Tony Martin and the endless supply of Classics guys, so it stands to reason that things would come together OK. Also, how hard is it to drop the fastest man in the world off at the 100 meter mark? There is no great trick to winning for Kittel, as we saw today. Just get in front on time and pound out the last few seconds, as hard as you can. Done and done.

Cavendish will still get plenty of chances to show how smart it was to get the band back together, particularly when Kittel is somewhere else. The Dimension Data team is very strong and experienced. But that's the thing about top-end speed: if someone has it, there isn't much you can do about it.