Irishman Dan Martin will lead the UAE team’s charge for General Classification (GC) honours and will hope to emulate or better his performances of the last two years where he has finished ninth (2016) and sixth a year ago.
Team Sky’s Chris Froome is the three-time defending Le Tour champion and will no doubt be searching for a fifth title overall.
Also heading to France for the second Grand Tour race of the season between July 7-29 will be reigning European champion Alexander Kristoff, who will be the side’s big hope in the sprint stages.
The duo will rely on the support of teammates Darwin Atapuma, Marco Marcato, Kristijan Durasek, Oliviero Troia, Roberto Ferrari and Rory Sutherland.
In Martin, UAE Team Emirates possess one of the most accomplished Tour riders. In 2017, he secured eight top-10 finishes and finished sixth overall – despite competing in 12 stages with a broken vertebrae.
Martin, 31, will also be hoping to break a trend of second place stage finishes, as he looks to earn his first stage victory in La Grande Boucle since 2013.
Martin and his teammates are guided by one of cycling’s most experienced sports directors, Matxin Joxean Fernandez who will be supported by Philippe Mauduit and Simone Pedrazzini.
Commenting ahead of the team’s departure, Martin said: “Since I signed for UAE Team Emirates the big goal has been the Tour de France. I plan to take the race day by day, stage by stage and try to achieve the best results possible.
“It’s really a race of two halves and the first nine days will be very tricky bringing different challenges each day, but I’m confident we have a great team that can get me to the mountains in a good position to have a bit of fun.
“Everything has gone well since the (Criterium du) Dauphine and I’m just looking forward to getting started.”
Teammate Kristoff added: “This is the biggest race in the world. The event where you get all the best cyclists, the best sprinters. I am going to France determined to get the best result possible and, if possible, a stage victory.”
The opening flat stages of this year’s tour will begin in the north-west of France, and are designed to end with thrilling sprint finishes. However, given riders’ proximity to the Atlantic coast, strong crosswinds could have a significant impact on the overall standings and the outcome in Stages 1, 2, 4 and 5.
As the peloton moves inland, the classics riders will be in familiar territory, particularly on Stage 9 from Arras to Roubaix. Stage 10 will be the first real test for the climbers, as the route from Annecy to La Grand Bornand features five categorised climbs, the hardest coming just 57km into the race.
From here on in, the climbs come thick and fast. Stage 11 will see the riders tackle the first summit finish, while Stage 12 harbours the infamous Alpe d’Huez – a 13.8km hors category (HC) climb with an average gradient of 8.1 per cent.
Stages 14-16 will be stern tests for the climbers, but they will have to keep some energy in reserve – despite a short 65km route. Stage 17 is practically all uphill and will challenge riders with two category one climbs and a HC summit finish. Getting some respite on a relatively flat Stage 18, the final day among the mountains on Stage 19 will see riders battle no less than six categorised climbs.
This stage could be pivotal in the GC standings, with Stage 20 being an Individual Time Trial. As is tradition, the final stage of Le Tour will take place in Paris, and see riders finish at the iconic Champs-Elysees.
Simon wore the leaders’ pink jersey for 13 days of the Giro, winning three stages, before cracking in the final few days as Chris Froome used a daring attack on stage 19 to set up overall victory.
It is now Adam’s turn to challenge Froome as he targets the general classification of the Tour, and the 25-year-old will head to France confident he can make a similar impact.
Just as they did for Simon at the Giro, Mitchelton-Scott have named a Tour team focused solely on the general classification, opting to leave sprinter Caleb Ewan at home.
“Obviously (Simon) did a really good race, not just him but the whole team,” Yates said. “We probably sent a full team of climbers to a Grand Tour for the first time and focused solely on the GC…
“They held the lead for pretty much two weeks and they were winning stages left, right and centre, so why can’t we take that confidence and replicate the same situation in the Tour?
“They’ve shown they can do it so why can’t we?”
The last time Adam rode in the Tour in 2016, he finished fourth overall and won the young riders’ classification. Now the goal is the podium, and trying to challenge pre-race favourite Froome, who is seeking a fourth straight title and fifth overall.
Yates said he had ‘no opinion’ on whether or not Froome should be in the race while the case surrounding his adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol at La Vuelta rumbles on, but asked how to beat the Team Sky rider, Yates could only laugh.
“Good question. He’s pretty good, isn’t he?” he said. “He’s come out of the Giro so hopefully he’s a bit tired. But he’s the man to beat.
“He’s always the man to beat. They’re going to have a super strong team for the team time trial, in time trials he goes good himself and then on the climbs he’s the best in the world most days.
“He’s difficult to beat but I’m happy with my preparation, and how training is going, and with the team I’ve got around me. I’ll be looked after pretty well so hopefully we can try something.”
The general classification hopefuls need not only beat each other, they must also defeat a route which has been designed to leave dangers lurking everywhere, not just in the mountains.
An opening week which could well be plagued by crosswinds concludes on the cobbled roads to Roubaix, and a stage which certainly caught Yates’ attention on a recon ride earlier this year.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s worse than I thought it was going to be…” he said. “It’s pretty full on. In the last 50km you’re on and off the cobbles all the way to the finish. It’s going to be tough but I’ve got a good team around me and we have to get through the best we can.”
This has been a season of ups and downs for Yates, who won a stage and finished fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico early in the season before being sidelined by a fractured pelvis suffered at the Volta a Catalunya.
“At first I couldn’t bend my leg so obviously it was pretty serious,” he said. “But I got on the home trainer after 10 days, just pedalling, and it all came back pretty quickly.”
He returned in time for a confidence-boosting outing at the Tour of California before riding to second place overall and a stage win in the Criterium du Dauphine.
“California was good even though it wasn’t a super-strong field, I was still up there being competitive,” he said. “Then in the Criterium I felt stronger, performed a little better. Everything is coming along nicely and slotting into place.”
Dan Martin will target the general classification at the Tour de France but his UAE Team Emirates squad will have split ambitions with sprinter Alexander Kristoff also named in the squad.
Irishman Martin is looking to build on his 2017 performance when he finished sixth in the Tour despite racing for almost two weeks with two broken vertebrae in his back after a crash on stage nine.
“Since I signed for Team UAE, the big goal has been the Tour de France,” said Martin, who last year rode for Quick-Step Floors.
“I plan to take the race day by day, stage by stage and try to achieve the best results possible. It’s really a race of two halves and the first nine days will be very tricky bringing different challenges each day, but I’m confident we have a great team that can get me to the mountains in a good position to have a bit of fun.”
Martin has had some encouraging results in the build-up to the race, finishing 10th overall in the Tour de Romandie and fourth in the Criterium du Dauphine.
There is no place for Yorkshireman Ben Swift in the team, with ambitions split between Martin’s general classification bid and European champion Kristoff in the sprints.
“This is the biggest race in the world.” Kristoff said. “The event where you get all the best cyclists, the best sprinters. I am going to France determined to get the best result possible and, if possible, a stage victory.”
The eight-man team is completed by Marco Mercato, Rory Sutherland, Roberto Ferrari, Oliviero Troia, Darwin Atapuma and Kristijan Durasek.