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Dubai Tour 2015: stage three – photo gallery

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Photographs: Joel Hewitt

John Degenkolb’s victory on the third stage of the Dubai Tour provided further evidence of his emergence as a talent distinct from Giant-Alpecin sprint king Marcel Kittel.
The German 1 put the hurt on the heavily fancied Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), among others, on a crippling 17 per cent gradient to the finishing line at Hatta Dam.
Anyone who witnessed Degenkolb prone on the baking tarmac in the immediate aftermath of an impressive early season victory will be under no illusion about the effort delivered.
On a stage widely considered tailor-made for Valverde, Degenkolb launched his assault earlier than the Spaniard was prepared to, and clung on to the finish with the world number one closing fast.
Cycling is littered with tales of friction resulting from the co-existence of rival talents within the same team. There is no suggestion of that at Giant-Alpecin. 
When Degenkolb won five stages of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, he was briefly considered the fastest man in a team containing emerging sprint sensation Kittel. His team-mate’s emphatic response at the Tour a year later forced many to revise their opinion, and perhaps Degenkolb, too.
Shorter and lighter than his team-mate, Degenkolb has applied his physiology to races the 82kg Kittel is unlikely to win: witness his victory at Gent-Wevelgem last season, or second-place a fortnight later at Paris-Roubaix. A further four stage victories at La Vuelta might have had him whistling “anything you can do…” as he sallied across the finish line.
Kudos then to Degenkolb for carving his own niche in a team that could easily have cohered solely around Kittel’s extraordinary talent. Andre Greipel failed to do the same at HTC.
Degenkolb has made his mark on the Dubai Tour and leads the race with one stage remaining. Kittel will start his season tomorrow at the Tour of Qatar. Entirely flat, but prone to crosswinds, Giant-Alpecin’s pure sprinter will be keen to match his team-mate’s achievement before both return to Europe.

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