Dubai: Young Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar will spearhead the UAE Team Emirates’ challenge alongside the experienced Fabio Aru at this year’s Tour de France.
The UAE Team Emirates have named their eight-member team for the pinnacle of the world cycling calendar, scheduled to kick off from Nice on August 29 before covering a distance of 3,470km over 21 stages for its traditional finish at the Champs Elysee in Paris on September 20.
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Originally scheduled to start on June 27, the Tour de France was postponed till the end of this month due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic in France.
UAE Team Emirates has been one of the outfits to impress after the re-start of the cycling season while claiming 18 victories for this year. Hopeful of building on that early success, the Abu Dhabi-based team has called in the youth of debutant Pogacar along with the experience of Aru.
Aru comes into the race with growing form and with a previous win at the Tour to his palmares. While Pogacar will head in with confidence after a strong showing in his Grand Tour debut in 2019 at the Vuelta España where he won three stages to finish third overall.
The pair will be supported in the hills by the experienced climbing trio of Davide Formolo, Jan Polanc and David De La Cruz. Kristoff will look for opportunities in the sprints, while road captain Marco Marcato and Vegard Stake Laengen will prove vital on the flatter roads.
Pogacar, who will turn 22 a day after the Tour de France concludes on September 20, promised a strong debut in the Grand Tour. “I’m a little nervous but mostly excited for my first Tour. At the Dauphine, we showed what we could do as a team,” he said.
“We were consistently strong all week: [Davide] Formolo won a stage, [David] De La Cruz took the mountains jersey and I was high on General Classification. It was really good preparation for the Tour de France and a sign of what we can do. We know that the Tour will be another step-up, but we are confident if all goes well that we can do good things,” he added.
Team manager Matxin Fernandez was also hopeful of a strong showing from the UAE Team Emirates this year. “The Tour de France is vital for everybody this year. After the season was re-scheduled and the confinement period, the Tour has grown to be a key event – for riders, teams, sponsors and organisers. We’ve had some races on the run-in to the Tour and are privileged to have had a number of wins and successes during that preparation period,” Fernandez said.
“For this Tour we have a well-balanced team. Fabio Aru goes in with the responsibility as joint leader along with Tadej Pogačar. Tadej will take it day by day and though we have a lot of confidence in him he will go in without any big pressure on his shoulders. It’s his first Tour and it will be a big experience for him. Between the leaders along with Polanc, Formolo and De La Cruz we have five riders who can do very well in the hills. For the flatter days we have Laengen, Kristoff and Marcato who will add strength and experience in the hectic moments that arise during any Tour de France. Kristoff will play a versatile role but will have his chances in the sprints, starting with stage 1,” the manager added.
Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia); Fabio Aru (Italy); Davide Formolo (Italy); Jan Polanc (Slovenia); Alexander Kristoff (Norway); Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway); David De La Cruz (Spain); Marco Marcato (Italy). Team Manager: Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Spain); Sports Directors: Allan Peiper (Australia), Simone Pedrazzini (Switzerland) and John Wakefield (South Africa).