Dubai: Leaders Alexander Kristoff and Fernando Gaviria are hopeful of giving the UAE Team Emirates a winning start as the Tour de France champions aim to commence the new season on a strong note.
The UAE Team Emirates is scheduled to get their campaign for the 2021 season with Kristoff leading a bunch at the Tour de la Provence starting on Thursday, while Gaviria will lead a squad of talented riders in the one-day Clasica de Almeria on Valentine’s Day.
Norwegian rider Kristoff, whose earliest success came in the Norwegian National Road Race Championships in 2007 and 2011, had signalled the UAE Team Emirates’s success-laden 2020 when he won the open stage of the Tour de France.
The following day, the 33-year-old from Oslo lost his yellow jersey to Julian Alaphilippe on a high mountain stage. But, that showed the intent of the team as a young Tadej Pogacar propelled the Abu Dhabi-based outfit to a historic triumph.
“It’s my first race and usually I need to get some races under my belt before I hit top form, but there are a few stages here that suit me. The training has been going well and it would be good to get some nice results before the classics,” Kristoff said. “Obviously Stage 3 to Mount Ventoux will be the decisive day for the General Classification where our climbers will aim to be active, but the other days are better terrain for me.”
Accompanying Kristoff as part of the UAE squad for the four-day Tour de la Provence taking place in the South-Eastern France will be the likes of Camilo Ardila,
Sven Erik Bystrom, Valerio Conti, Alessandro Covi, Vegard Stake Laengen and Matteo Trentin, who is expected to be Kristoff’s lead-out man.
While the Provence is still quite a small race, it has traditionally attracted a few top names every year thanks to its challenging terrain.
Confirmed to start on Thursday morning, the list of riders includes some big names including 2019 Tour de France champion Egan Bernal of the Ineos Grenadiers team.
Also in the line-up is defending champion Nairo Quintana of the Arkea-Samsic team as the 31-year-old Colombian bids to retain his title at the race after his commanding display at last year’s event that saw him take overall victory by over a minute on Astana-Premier-Tech’s Aleksandr Vlasov.
Sunday will be Colombian rider Gaviria to get his campaign off to a winning start when he heads into the Clasica de Almeria in Andalusia, Spain.
Held over a distance of 192.5km, the race will have a start at Puebla de Vicar and a finish in the Almeria town of Roquetas de Mar. The race is part of the UCI ProSeries 2021, the second tier on the world cycling calendar within the UCI 1. Pro category.
“This will be my first race of the season and my first time racing Clasica Almeria. I usually start the season at San Juan in Argentina so this will be a change of pace and something new for me,” Gaviria said.
“We are going in with a very strong squad with guys who are really specialists on this terrain. Between myself and [Sebastian] Molano, we have options in the sprint and will be looking for a good result. We can’t wait to get back racing again,” the Colombian added.
Tour de la Provence: Camilo Ardila (Colombia); Sven Erik Bystrom (Norway); Valerio Conti (Italy); Alessandro Covi (Italy); Alexander Kristoff (Norway); Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway); Matteo Trentin (Italy). Sports Directors: Fabrizio Guidi (Italy), Manuele Mori (Italy)
Clasica Almeria: Fernando Gaviria (Colombia); Marco Marcato (Italy); Sebastian Molano (Colombia); Ivo Oliveira (Portugal); Rui Oliveira (Portugal); Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina); Oliviero Troia (Italy). Team Managers: Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Spain) and Simone Pedrazzini (Switzerland)