UAE Team Emirates, led by in-form Portuguese rider Rui Costa, is heading to the first of the season’s three Ardennes Classics – the Amstel Gold Race – this Sunday, with hopes of a podium place firmly in mind.
Costa, who earlier this season won the overall General Classification title at his team’s home race – the Abu Dhabi Tour – is aiming to improve on his previous best at the Amstel Gold Race.
That was a fourth place finish in 2015 and this year, Costa is hoping to break into the top-three.
“My participation on Sunday will mark the eighth time for me back at the Amstel Gold Race,” he said. “This is a race I like and look forward to. I know that it’s going to be super tough and even though I’ve got good form, I know that I’ll have to have a really good day.
“You need to manage the way you expend your energy and effort in order to prepare yourself to arrive at the hills in the best position and form.
“I was fourth in 2015, so I know I can contend in this race and I could aim for a breakaway win.
“The last passage on the Cauberg used to be the most important part of the race, however this year the course has been changed and the last climb will be Bemelerberg cresting at 7.3 kilometres making it a bit more suited for fast riders like Ben swift and Diego Ulissi who now have more of a chance than in the past.”
Taking place in the south of the Netherlands, in the region of Maastricht, the Amstel Gold Race is a unique race which sees the riders faced with a multitude of mostly short, but often brutally steep, climbs.
The 52nd edition of the race will be the 16th stop on the UCI World Tour this year, and will feature 259.7 kilometers of narrow roads, dozens of hills and relentless twists and turns.
The 2017 route takes in 35 hills, yet unlike in previous editions, the hard-hitting Cauberg is no longer the final climb, making the Dutch race even more uncertain than usual.
Joining former World Champion Costa in the hunt for glory on Sunday will be his UAE Team Emirates team-mate, British sprint sensation Ben Swift who believes that the unusual course this year could play to his advantage.
“The new final part of the course presents an opportunity for me and for other riders with similar strengths, and so Amstel Gold Race could be a new and interesting challenge for me,” said Swift. “It is always very difficult to predict how this race will pan out and a challenge to be amongst the front group in the final portion of the race.”
Riding alongside Rui Costa and Ben Swift at the Amstel Gold Race, the UAE Team Emirates line-up is completed by Diego Ulissi, Matteo Bono, Marco Marcato, Matej Mohoric, Manuele Mori and Simone Petilli.
UAE Team Emirates rider Louis Meintjes finished in sixth place overall at Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country).
The 25-year-old rode brilliantly to finish 14th place in Saturday’s sixth and final stage – and ended up bagging a top-six finish in the General Classification.
Alejandro Valverde of Spain won the Tour outright, adding to his victories in Andalusia and Catalonia already this season.
Speaking after the race, Meintjes said his top-10 finish gives him much needed confidence after recent mixed results in the Volta a Catalunya and Abu Dhabi Tour.
“It has been a very good week. I’ve come back to live the feelings of being in the front of the races,” said Meintjes.
“It is an important result and, moreover, it gives me morale and important feedback in view of the next races.”
The South African’s sixth-place finish represents his biggest result to date with the UAE team since joining from Team Dimension Data at the end of last season.
Sports director Orlando Maini said: “Meintjes was constant during the whole week and the sixth place is a proper prize for him, for his good form and for the whole team.”
“We were constantly every day in the top 10. This means that our general level of competitiveness was very good and, most importantly, that we had a very good team spirit.
“It was very difficult to be in the top 10 of the final general classification and we achieved this goal.”
Diego Ulissi sealed a formidable eighth place finish in the final stage individual time trial, 52 seconds behind winner Roglic.
“The result in the time trial makes me happy and I’m confident for the next races,” said Ulissi.
Two races in Belgium follow over the next few weeks with the Fleche Wallone taking place on April 19 and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 23.
Registration for the biggest cycle challenge in the Middle East, the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge is now open – taking place on Friday, December 15 with four supporting build-up rides in the lead-up to the event.
The popular cycle event has continued to grow since its launch eight years ago with over 2,000 cyclists from all over the world entering the event and many cyclists taking part in the newly added UCI Gran Fondo Category in a pursuit to qualify for the exciting UCI Gran Fondo World Championships.
The start of the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge season begins on Friday, 8 September with the first of four build-up Rides.
The 35km Build-Up ride will take place at Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One track with a lively cycle village full of sponsors’ activities, delicious breakfast options provided by Spinneys and fun and games for children to kick start the season.
For all those that are new to the sport, the official bike store, Revolution Cycles Dubai will be on-site at every race to ensure that newcomers are well-looked-after with great bikes to rent and a handful of helpful hints and tips to start their exciting cycling journey.
CEO of Spinneys Dubai, Mr. Jannie Holtzhausen, says: “We are thrilled to be one of the main partners for the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge again this year. I am personally looking forward to seeing an array of new faces taking part in the Build-Up rides over the next few months, as well as at the final challenge.
“Health and wellness is huge part of what we do at everything Spinneys does, we truly want to inspire and encourage our customers and staff, internally, and recognise their input by encouraging them to get involved in challenges such as the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge.”
The organisers of the event are also excited to announce the return of the popular Spinneys Dubai 92 Junior Rides, the timed 2.5km, 15km and 30km rides are designed for 6 to 15 year-olds held at the Dubai Autodrome on Thursday, 14 December.
For all cyclists who wish to register but do not have a bike we have plenty of bike and helmet rental options in the registration process.
To register or find out more information on any of the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge events please visit www.cyclechallenge.ae