The UAE Team Emirates is banking on in-house talent and home support to make an ideally strong start to the season during this week’s Dubai Tour.

Launched in January last year the team made their debut at the 2017 People’s Choice Classic Criterium in Australia. Their first success came when Portuguese rider Rui Costa won the queen stage of the Vuelta de San Juan on the Alto Colorado at the end January 2017.

With reasonably strong starts to 2018 during the Tour Down Under in Australia and the Vuelta in San Juan Argentina, UAE Team Emirates will be fielding new recruit Alexander Kristoff as their lead rider during this week’s fifth edition of the Dubai Tour.

“Alex [Kristoff] is a true leader. He is not a pure sprinter, but he is an amazing rider with a strong class and ethics. The expectations on him are really high especially after he took silver in the world championships last year,” Carlo Saronni, Team Manager, UAE Team Emirates, told Gulf News.

“With Kristoff, we will have a great leader in the group and a mix of experience and young talent that will help him reach all goals for himself and for the team,” he added.

Even though Kristoff will be sheltered by the rest of the group, the team has an alternate plan in place as well while putting young Simone Consonni to shadow the Norwegian rider. Integral to the success of UAE Team Emirates is the young crop of riders especially UAE boy Yousuf Al Mirza who has excelled while leading the stages on a couple of occasions during the Dubai Tour in the past.

“The support from the UAE Champion [Mirza] will be really important to us as he knows everything. He could be a sort of director during the Dubai Tour and the other races in the region [Tour of Oman and Abu Dhabi Tour]. We have great hopes in the role he [Mirza] will play during the races held in this region. He could be the key or the surprise element in our team progressing towards possible success,” Saronni stressed.

“Also important with the rest of the riders and the role they would have to play. Our focus is always on being together as believe that unity can lead to strength,” he added.

The Gulf swing will see the Dubai Tour followed by the Tour of Oman and the Abu Dhabi Tour at the end of February. “We have done our homework well and I can tell you that we will ensure riders adapt to the conditions and ride as per the needs of the team. Some may do all three races, while others may do two or even just one race. We want to set the tone here as these are our home races,” Saronni said.

“Our goal is to win as much as we can in this part of the world and that will help us set the tone for the remainder of the season. We are sure that we will have that added boost from our fans during our hardest moments,” he added.