Abu Dhabi: UAE Team Emirates have announced a star-studded line-up for their high-profile home race — the UAE Tour.
The inaugural event, which is the coming-together of the previous Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours, will run across all seven emirates and will see Tour de France 2018 stage winner and Irish ace cyclist Dan Martin lead the UAE Team Emirates challenge.
This will be Martin’s debut race for his side on home turf and he is keen to make his presence felt straight away.
“I’m truly happy to race this new event. It’s a beautiful nation and for the first time we can take it all in a weeklong race. We have a strong team and the chance to push for the win almost every day. I went to the UAE early to preview the mountain stages,” said Martin, who is looking to build on his showing from the last race at Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
“I felt really good. I thought of the UAE race all winter and so I hope to be able to get the best result possible. Clearly, for our team, this race has significance and we are going try to win at all costs,” added the 32-year-old, who will be facing a stiff challenge for the overall title from last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour winner and new world champion Alejandro Valverde of Movistar. Other overall contenders include Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb, Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida and Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo.
“We have a group of strong riders coming to race, which tells you something about how important it is for us,” said Martin. “We are going to try in every way to make it an aggressive race, with the hope of reaching the top of the General Classification.”
Martin will be getting all the support he needs from sprint sensation Alexander Kristoff. The Norwegian was impressive in Oman where he picked up another stage victory but was unable to finish the race after a heavy crash left him with deep cuts to his arm and knee.
Kristoff will be taking a shot at the sprint stages alongside teammate Fernando Gaviria of Colombia. Twenty four-year-old Gaviria had already won two stages in UAE colours but was forced to pull out of the stage 3 of the Tour Colombia 2.1 last week with respiratory infection that worsened since the race started in Medellin.
“I’m motivated and focused on this home race,” he said. “This year, I began strongly in Argentina, but I was a little big suffering from a cold in Colombia, so I had to pull out after two stages. I hope to have recovered 100 per cent to be able to aim for a stage win, which would surely please the sponsors and our management.”
Former World Champion and Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 winner, Rui Costa also adds plenty of firepower for UAE Team Emirates. He was fourth overall in Oman where Kazakhstan’s Alexey Lutsenko of Astana won the race after the sixth and final stage.
“Our goal is to win,” he said. “We have three leaders for the overall classification and tactically, we can play ourselves well. It’s always great to ride on those home roads of our sponsor, it gives a certain motivation. I have good memories of 2017 when I was able to win the overall of the Abu Dhabi Tour.”
Costa who will be joined by Italian all-rounder Diego Ulissi. Completing the team line-up is Norwegian National Champion Vegard Stake Laengen and Oliviero Troia of Italy.