UAE Team Emirates has announced the team will tackle its first Vuelta a España – the third and final Grand Tour of the UCI World Tour season.
This Saturday (August 19) it will be the first time the UAE competes in the race, featuring a strong line-up including General Classification (GC) contenders as well as climbing and sprint specialists.
The Vuelta a España is the final showdown of the campaign and the youngest of the three Grand Tours starting in 1935, the Giro d’Italia began in 1909 whilst the Tour de France was established in 1903.
This year’s edition kicks off with a 13.8km Team Time Trial in Nîmes, France, making it the third time in 80 years that the opening race of the Tour has begun outside of Spain since 2009.
The race takes place between Saturday 19 August – Sunday 10 September, across 21 stages covering a total distance of 3,324km, with the GC winner taking home the coveted Maillot Rojo (Red Jersey).
Leading the UAE Team Emirates GC charge is South African rider Louis Meintjes and Portuguese rider Rui Costa, the latter of whom will be making his first appearance at Vuelta a España.
Commenting on his debut, former World Champion and UAE Team Emirates’ rider, Rui Costa said: “This will be my race debut and I am excited about taking part in it. I am looking forward to enjoying every single stage and the challenges that come with it. The season is nearing its end and I want to savour every minute.”
Speaking on his upcoming participation in the final Grand Tour of the season, South African Louis Meintjes said: “I’m currently undergoing altitude training in Andorra in preparation for the Vuelta. The training has been going really well following the Tour de France. I am gunning for a good GC result but it all depends on my performance, my body is still recovering.”
Joining the GC contenders on the UAE Team Emirates line-up are six other riders including Moroccan Anass Aït El Abdia, Italians Sacha Modolo and Federico Zurlo, Slovenians Jan Polanc and Matej Mohoric, Colombian Darwin Atapuma and Pole Przemyslaw Niemiec.
Confirming the line-up, UAE Team Emirates’ Sporting Director Simone Pedrazzini said: “We are quite happy with the selection and believe we have a good team with a varied selection of specialisms. The riders are in-form and hopefully we will be able to target a few stage wins. Our GC contenders will be Louis Meintjes and Rui Costa, who will both be on the lookout for a top ten finish, whilst Darwin Atapuma and Jan Polanc will compete to be King of the Mountain.
“Our fastest rider, Sacha Modolo will be supported by two of our younger riders, Matej Mohoric and Federico Zurlo with Anass Aït El Abdia making his Grand Tour debut. Amongst the line up as well is Niemiec, who has previously won a stage in the 2014 edition of the race and his experience will definitely be valuable.”
Britain’s Ben Swift will lead UAE Team Emirates as the UCI World Tour heads to Germany on Sunday for the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg.
UAE Team Emirates has announced a strong team that will be led by former Team Sky man Swift, who will line up alongside Italian teammates Diego Ulissi, Simone Consonni, Roberto Ferrari, Filippo Ganna, Marco Marcato, Oliviero Troia and Slovenian Marko Kump.
More than 750,000 spectators are reported to gather for the race, which is now in its 22nd year.
Swift, 29, said: “The EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg is usually a wide open race, with various chances to attack, although a final sprint is still the most probable outcome.
“I will try to seize the moment and the right situation to try to get into a tight group in which I can make my move during the sprint to the finish line.”
The route, which covers a total distance of 220.9km, sees riders competing on the circuit course and they will have to contend with one large lap, followed by three shorter circuit laps which will feature the Waseberg incline – the largest incline of the race – before a 15km uphill finish.
UAE Team Emirates sports manager Orlando Maini is predicting a big race for veteran Ferrari, 34.
“Usually this race is the perfect battleground for sprinters; this is why we would like to give Ferrari the chance to go up against the best sprinters of the pack,” he said.
“Roberto is always impeccable in the role of last man in the leading-train for our other speedsters, but he has always been ready when he’s been assigned a captain’s rank as well.
“The Waseberg is the only part of the route that could weed out the group; Ulissi, Swift and Marcato are going to have to be ready for it.”
This weekend also marks the start of the Vuelta a Espana, the final Grand Tour of this season’s UCI World Tour, which begins with a time trial on Saturday in the French city of Nimes – the third time in its 72-year history that the Vuelta will start from another country.
South Africa’s Louis Meintjes is leaving UAE Team Emirates and will ride for African team Dimension Data next year, the WorldTour outfit announced on Monday.
Meintjes, 25, started out with Dimension Data but left in 2016 to join Lampre-Merida, who became UAE this year. Two successive eighth-placed finishes in the Tour de France followed and the talented climber is now set to return to Africa’s premier team.
“I am super excited to be coming back home to an African team,” said Meintjes in a Dimension Data statement.
Team principal Douglas Ryder added: “Louis was a part of our initial journey and we are delighted to have him rejoin our team as we embark on the next part of the team’s dream.”
Ryder said they hoped Meintjes would help them achieve a top three finish in a Grand Tour.
“We believe that Louis has the potential to stand on the top step of the podium in the World Tour stage races taking African cycling development to new heights,” added Ryder.
Meintjes will be on the start line at the Vuelta a Espana, which starts on Saturday.
He finished 10th at the Vuelta in 2015 while last year he was seventh in the Olympic Games road race.
UAE Team Emirates recently recruited Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff, and renewed the contracts of seven riders. Slovenian rider Matej Mohoric is leaving the Emirati outfit to move to fellow Gulf-based team Bahrain Merida.