UAE Team Emirates rider Fernando Gaviria (second right) won the Big Flag second stage and then had two second place finishes in the inaugural UAE Tour. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: Mauro Gianetti, UAE Team Emirates CEO, is confident his team can build on the performance of the inaugural UAE Tour heading into the season.

UAE Team Emirates lead sprinter Fernando Gaviria won the Big Flag second stage and then had two second place finishes. He only fell short in the last few metres to Olympic Champion Elia Viviani at the Khor Fakkan stage and was again second in the final City Walk finish behind Irishman Sam Bennett.

Teammate Daniel Martin also impressed with fifth and fourth place finishes on the testing Jebel Hafeet and Jebel Jais. Diego Ulissi was seventh at the Hatta Dam stage.

A lot of credit should also go to Alexander Kristoff for his role during the home tour. The Norwegian, despite playing second fiddle to Gaviria, gave his best to ensure the Colombian was in with a chance for the final burst in all sprint stages.

“We want to do well for the sponsors, our partners and of course, our fans. We were really happy for Fernando and the team when they achieved success in Stage 2. Of course, we would have liked to have had more podiums because we were always up there,” said Gianetti, adding that the results were more than satisfactory.

“A win, two second places, a fourth place and a fifth-place finish in a week stage race is not a bad result. Add to that, Martin being top 10 in the GC, the team coming second in the team’s classification and Gaviria being second in the points classification, you can tell we worked hard but were unlucky at times,” said Gianetti, who also revealed that the success at the beginning of the season is morale boosting and assurance that the team is heading in the right direction.

“It is early in the season and the riders are still building up their form and learning to ride with our new signings, so this tour gives us a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”

The Swiss also welcomed the merger of the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tour and felt it has added more value and challenge to the Tour. “We think that combining the two Tours has been a really positive thing. The riders have had more challenges and that has produced a week of really exciting racing.

“It has also showed the variety of cycling that is available in the UAE — which is great for the country. As the race matures then I am sure the organisers will test new formats and courses to keep things entertaining for the fans,” said Gianetti, who also suggested an evening race for the UAE Tour.

“An evening race would be amazing and maybe a city centre criterium — so that the fans could watch more bike racing in a beautiful location with amazing facilities.”

Gianetti and UAE Team Emirates will now be immediately switching their focus to the Classics.

“We raced in Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Kuurne — Brussels — Kuurne. After the classics, we start looking at the Grand Tours where we want to build on the success we had in the Tour de France last year with two stage wins from Martin and Kristoff and the award for most competitive rider, which Martin also picked up.”