Abu Dhabi: Conquering the Jebel Hafeet will be the key to win the inaugural UAE Tour, feels UAE Team Emirates lead rider Dan Martin.
“The race will be decided on the Jebel Hafeet because the climb is steeper while the Jebel Jaish is longer. It depends on the wind. If it’s head wind, it will be very difficult to create a gap,” felt the Tour de France 2018 stage winner Martin on the eve of the race starting with time trial on Sunday.
“The Hatta Dam stage will also be important. At Hatta Dam you can’t win the race, but you can lose the race. Obviously if you are in a bad position or have some bad luck, you can lose 10, 15 or 20 seconds and that can decide between victory and defeat. It’s a special steep finish and if you are in a bad position or have little bit bad luck at the wrong moment and there is a gap, you can lose 15-20 seconds,” revealed Martin.
“All winter, I have been thinking about this race. My role is to try and win. I know how important it is to win in front of our sponsors and also it’s a beautiful race. Even in the training this week, so many times cars go past us cheering us because we had the UAE in our jersey,” said the Irish ace, who will be making his UAE debut with this race.
Martin’s teammate Rui Costa of Portugal, who won the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2017, was upbeat about the team doing well despite a strong field.
“We are really motivated for this race and I also won here in 2017. It is always nice to ride where the team is from. All the sponsors are here and the bosses are here. We are confident as we have improved a lot in every field. We can win some strong races in 2019,” said Costa, adding that UAE Team Emirates is banking on three climbers — Martin, Diego Ulissi and him for the General Classification.
“We start with three leaders for the GC, it’s me, Dan and Ulissi. It is about starting well in the time trial and after the first mountain stage of Jebel Hafeet, we will see who is in the best shape and try to support him.”
Sprint ace Alexander Kristoff still has his left arm heavily strapped from the crash in Oman, where he won one stage but is confident of putting up a good show with Colombian teammate Fernando Gaviria.
The Norwegian, in all probability, will be working for Gaviria in bunch sprints and feels his role will be key to get the desired result.
“Yes, normally I should be his last man and we also have Oliviero Troia to put us in position. Fernando should stay on my wheel and I can deliver — being faster than other guys and we can try and win some sprint stages. At the Hatta Dam, may be we will go together and then see how it goes as it is not a straightforward sprint.”