Who are you most looking forward to seeing in Abu Dhabi?
We’ve rounded up the top cyclists to keep a close eye on.
The first stage begins on Wednesday with the climax to the race ending on Sunday at Jebel Hafeet.
Team: UAE Team Emirates
2017 result in Abu Dhabi: 8th
The Italian will compete in his first race for his new team since signing from Astana in October. At 27, the Sardinia native has won a Vuelta, stood on the Giro podium twice and clinched a stage on last year’s Tour de France. Aru will want to improve on his 8th place showing in the capital last year and impress on debut for his new team. Don’t rule out a podium finish on Sunday.
Team: Team Sunweb
2017 result in Abu Dhabi: 3rd
It will be fascinating to see what form Dumoulin brings into this season after impressing during his Giro d’Italia and World individual time trial wins last season. The Dutchman is predominantly a time-triallist, but can also climb effectively, and has been tipped as a star of Grand Tours over the next five years. With a podium finish in Abu Dhabi last year, the 27-year-old will have big ambitions returning to the UAE.
Team: Movistar Team
2017 result in Abu Dhabi: DNP
The veteran Spaniard had a stunning 2017 campaign, winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, La Fleche Wallone, Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta a Andalucia. At 37 he is far from a fading force. A broken knee cap ruled him out for half of last season, but the Movistar man looks back to his best after sealing victory at the Tour of Valencia two weeks ago.
Team: Quick-Step Floors
2017 result in Abu Dhabi: 134rd
The 2016 Olympic champion won nine races last year after his Giro d’Italia snub by Team Sky. Now with Quick-Step Floors, a key season lies ahead for the Italian and he’s already opened his account with an early season win at the Dubai Tour. At 29, Viviani has the chance to be the marquee man on a team that will offer more support than his previous employers.
2017 result in Abu Dhabi: 87th
The German has been arguably the best sprinter in the world over the past two seasons but is still finding his feet with his new Katusha-Alpecin team. After a successful 2017 campaign which included five Tour de France stage wins, the Arnstadt native will be bidding to seal stage wins in the capital, especially after a disappointing Dubai Tour.
One way to look at the strengthened UAE Team Emirates roster is to assume a slide down the totem pole for Costa, but the Portuguese cyclist views the revamped side as a benefit to him – both as a challenge and in the form of help.
“For sure I’m really motivated. I’m motivated to push myself at the top, like I’ve always done, but for sure this year because my team-mates are really strong,” Costa told Sport360°.
“But it’s better for me because you never know in the race, sometimes you crash or whatever reason, having two leaders and leaders who can win several stages in races this season, there’s less stress for everybody. The pressure was just on my shoulders a lot before and now I have to share this pressure with several riders.”
Costa will also have a tougher time defending his title in Abu Dhabi due to his relative lack of fitness and the addition of a time trial on the fourth stage.
“I’m not in the same shape or same condition as last year because I was sick for one week when I came back from Australia and I lost several days of training,” Costa said. “After Oman, I’m going up and for sure until the penultimate stage, the time trial, I think I can do a good race. If I’m front, my team-mates will work with me and if they’re in front, I’ll work with them.”
After falling agonisingly short on several stages of the Dubai Tour, Kristoff finally stamped his maiden victory with UAE Team Emirates on stage six in Oman on Sunday.
The Norwegian was satisfied to see everything come together in a race after being limited to two fourth and two seventh-place finishes in Dubai.
“It’s always nice to get the first win, every year,” Kristoff told Sport360°.
“In the Tour of Dubai, we had not trained together so much for the sprints so it was difficult and we didn’t manage to time it correct, so I didn’t get any super good results. So it was nice that we finally came really good together and yesterday the team did really perfect work.
“We showed if we do things correctly, we can win sprints. It was a nice team victory.”
🏁 LAST KILOMETRE 🏁@Kristoff87 displayed raw power and enjoyed a perfect lead-out, featuring World champion @RuiCostaCyclist, to claim the win on the Matrah Corniche ahead of @bryancoquard & @Giacomonizzolo #TOO2018 @TeamUAEAbuDhabi pic.twitter.com/nwkYjhBpSY— Tour of Oman (@tourofoman) February 18, 2018
Leaving Dubai empty-handed was surely a disappointment for UAE Team Emirates and likely means added pressure on the side to come away with more success in the capital.
Kristoff, however, recognises his role in the Abu Dhabi Tour will be different to the one he played in Dubai.
With Abu Dhabi featuring a summit finish that could once again decide the general classification as it did last year, Kristoff will support his climber team-mates Fabio Aru, who will make his UAE Team Emirates debut, and Rui Costa, the reigning champion.
“Now that we managed to get a win in Oman, that took a little bit of pressure off. But for sure, we are on home ground and the lineup we have is very good,” Kristoff said.
“But it’s not maybe so good for the sprints and I think the main goal for the team is the GC. With the last day with the uphill finish, we have a really strong squad for this. Then in the sprints if we can get one stage, I think that will be a bonus since we have maybe three riders in the sprint train and will compete against full trains of other teams.”