After Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) took the first King of the Sprint title in Australia, then took it to Abu Dhabi, where he first lost and then regained it, he will finally bring it to Europe, by riding Tirreno-Adriatico from 8 to 14 March.
In Italy, he will meet Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) again, who got second behind Ewan three times in the Tour Down Under, and Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data), who won the first stage in the Abu Dhabi Tour, when Ewan crashed. And then there is Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step Floors), who beat Ewan last year in Tirreno-Adriatico.
The first sprint chance will probably be stage 3, from Monterotondo Marittimo to Montalto di Castro.
Caleb Ewan’s (Orica-Scott) Abu Dhabi Tour didn’t start very well, with a crash in stage 1 and a certain victory in stage 2 lost after celebrating too early, but he put things right again in the fourth and final stage today, a 143 km circuit race on the Yas Marina Formula One circuit.
After a day in the rain, Ewan got the better of rivals Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), who has yet to win his first title race.
By winning the final stage, Ewan makes sure that at least a few extra days are added to his reign, which started on the first day of the Tour Down Under in January and was only interrupted for a few days this week in Abu Dhabi. We know that he will compete in Milano-Sanremo on 18 March, but it isn’t clear yet where he will race in the weeks leading up to that event.
It looks as if every great sprinter wants to hold the KOTS title at least once. After Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) had himself crowned King after the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour yesterday, that other present-day sprinting legend Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors) took the win – and the title – today.
Until the very end of the sprint, everyone watching thought quadruple sprint king Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) would take the title back from Cavendish, but he started celebrating a fraction too early, and got beaten by Kittel’s final jump.
The next KOTS title race will probably be stage 4, on the Yas Marina Formula One circuit.
The fifth KOTS title race in history finally saw a change of power in the sprint kingdom, when Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data), arguably the best sprinter ever, beat rival André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida) in Madinat Zayed at the finish of the first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Reigning King of the Sprint Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) couldn’t defend his chances properly, though, as he got involved in a crash a kilometre from the line, which also brought down co-favourite Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors).
Can Cavendish also achieve a double – or even a triple? This time tomorrow, we might already know!
Tomorrow the show that is the UCI WorldTour will move to the Middle East, when the Abu Dhabi Tour kicks off, and also the King of the Sprint sideshow will continue in the same location, since quadruple King Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) chose Abu Dhabi for his first race after his four Tour Down Under wins.
Retaining his title won’t be easy for Ewan, however, since the competition will be stronger than ever. To name a few of the champions that will probably try to take over the King of the Sprint title already at the end of the first stage: Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky).
We’re looking forward to an exciting week!
Next Tuesday the Santos Tour Down Under kicks off in Unley. We are quite confident that the King of the Sprint competition will also have kicked off by the time the first 2017 WorldTour race comes to an end in Adelaide on Sunday 22 January.
Since top sprinters Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and Marcel Kittel didn’t travel to Australia this year, a lot of people expect world champion and multiple green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to take the first King of the Sprint title in history.
But suppose …
… suppose Sagan doesn’t win, suppose he makes a mistake in the final sprint, suppose he doesn’t find a gap to dive in, suppose he has to let the peloton go because of a late puncture, or worse, suppose he crashes and has to leave the race. Or suppose he does become King of the Sprint but fails to successfully defend the title in the second sprint stage of the race. Then who would you put your money on?
Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) is certainly a rider who might beat Sagan on pure speed. But we’ll also keep an eye on Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team), Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb), Danny Van Poppel (Team Sky), Mark Renshaw (Team Dimension Data) and Ben Swift (UAE Abu Dhabi)
And, who knows, maybe we’ll even get a surprise winner. There are exciting times ahead!