UAE Team Emirates make their mark in Vuelta a Burgos
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Dubai: The UAE Team Emirates cycling team are relishing the prospect of riding on this season’s quantum leap in fulfilling higher aspirations next year.

The squad of 30 riders landed in Dubai late on Wednesday and spent much of Thursday in various media activities before embarking on a weeklong programme that will highlight their 2019 achievements along with promotion of the sport at the community level during the week.

Managed by former two-time Giro d’Italia winner Giuseppe Saronni, UAE Team Emirates began 2019 with the Tour Down Under and concluded their best-ever performance with Colombian Fernando Gaviria signing off with wins on the first and fifth stages of the season-ending Tour of Guangxi in China, last week.

Those two successes took UAE Team Emirates’ tally to 29, including 19 stage race wins, three one-day races, four overall wins, three National Championships totalling more than 100 podium finishes. After a 13th spot in the world teams’ classification in their first year in 2018, UAE Team Emirates took a huge jump into fourth overall this season.

Leading the way was Slovenian rider Tadej Pogacar as the 21-year-old punched way above his weight winning the Tour of California and ending third overall in the Vuelta a Espana to end as the highest-ranked rider in the team.

Pleased with this progressive spurt within such a short period, Mauro Gianetti, UAE Team Emirates CEO and board member was eagerly looking forward to an even more ambitious 2020. “The fourth position in the teams’ world classification is a huge step forward for us. It means we performed and did everything within our capacity to be where we are. Personally, I am quite happy about the team and the fact that we displayed our young talent like [Tadej] Pogacar and [Jasper] Philipsen to the world,” Gianetti told Gulf News.

“Going forward, our focus will be on winning races and flying the UAE flag while giving our sponsors Emirates Airline, First Abu Dhabi Bank and Emaar maximum exposure globally. We are ambassadors of the UAE and our aim is to be among the top three teams in the world.”

Pogacar led the way with three stage wins in the Vuelta that included a remarkable 40km solo breakaway on Stage 20 that handed him a third overall in Spain. “The future of the team is really bright with the abundance of young talent. And, with the older riders, we can always have someone to look up to and learn from them. There is a really good mixture in the team and we are like a family. This can only get us all motivated towards getting good results,” Pogacar said.

Gaviria, who was the latest to taste success for the UAE team, was willing to carry forward his form into 2020. “First, it’s a bit of rest and spend time with my family and my dogs and in December we will start training again. I am happy for the team with this really big step we’ve taken this year. We can only get better, but as riders, we need to stay at a constant high level so that we can push each other to do better next season,” he said.

Norwegian Kristoff, 32, now seen as one of the team elders, has a two-year extension with the team. “It is the young riders who will make the difference for us and for sure we can expect a bright season ahead,” he said.

“Suddenly, I am one of the older riders and I need to be professional to show the young ones the right way. Not only do I have to take the role of the leader, but I must also use my experience so that the team benefits.”