Alessandro Covi, left, and the UAE Team Emirates line-up for the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise on January 31.
Alessandro Covi, left, and the UAE Team Emirates line-up for the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise on January 31. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Italian trio of Alessandro Covi, Matteo Trentin and Oliviero Troia will be among the early entrants as UAE Team Emirates commence their challenge for the 2021 cycling season in France and Spain next week.

Covi, Trentin and Troia will be joined by Ryan Gibbons of South Africa, Portuguese rider Rui Oliveira, Vegard Stake Laengen of Norway and Belarusian Aleksandr Riabushenko as the team open up their campaign with the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise on January 31.

The second race will be held in neighbouring Spain with the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana from February 3-7, and the UAE-based team will also be looking at a strong performance as the experienced Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff leads a star-studded line-up. The other members of the squad are David De La Cruz (Spain), Rui Costa (Portugal), Fernando Gaviria (Colombia), Brandon McNulty (USA), Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina) and Italian Matteo Trentin.

UAE Team Emirates had a successful preseason camp in the UAE, after which the team landed in Europe last week to continue final preparations for the opening few tests that get under way on Sunday’s in Marseille, an event that will see Sports Director Simone Pedrazzini of Switzerland lead the UAE side.

Joxean Matxin Fernandez, Team Manager, UAE Team Emirates was hopeful of the upcoming events. “We had a great team camp in the UAE where we were warmly welcomed and were able to prepare well. In terms of training, we had near-perfect weather conditions between 25 to 28 degrees on most days, and along with this we had all types of terrain with flatlands as well as the Jebel Hafeet where the riders could really test themselves,” he said.

“The early season race calendar has had a few disruptions but we are confident we will have a solid programme and be present in the most important races. We start the year later at both GP Marseillaise and Volta Valenciana hungry for the first victory of 2021.”

Meanwhile, the trio of Joxean Matxin Fernandez, Aurelio Corral of Spain and Fabrizio Guidi of Italy will take the reins for UAE Team Emirates for the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in the opening week of February.

“It’s the first race so it’s always hard to know exactly how the shape is. I came out of the camp in UAE feeling good and we all managed to get in some solid training,” Kristoff said. “We have a very strong and balanced team here so we’ll take our chances in the sprints and then also have different options on the hilly days. The main aim is to get the race rhythm back but also go for a win where we can.”