Vuelta a Espana champion Fabio Aru insists his relationship with Astana team-mate Vincenzo Nibali is “very good” and that he’ll be happy to help him try and win the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Astana have sent a strong contingent to the UAE capital including two team leaders in Nibali and Aru along with Diego Rosa.
With the third stage of the tour featuring a daunting 11km climb with an average gradient of 7.5 per cent, eyes will be on the Italian duo but Aru said he’s ready to ride for Nibali, who pulled off an impressive Lombardia win last Sunday.
“I’ll do as well as I can, like always,” Aru said. “Vincenzo won a great Lombardia. We’ll see how I feel but I’ve no problem in helping Vincenzo. We get on despite what people think. I was really happy to work for him at the Tre Valli Varesine race and he won it. There are absolutely no problems.
“The relationship between me and Vicenzo is very good. I will help him and he will help me because we need to get a result for Astana, not just for us.”
With the 2016 Giro d’Italia route unveiled just two days ago in Milan, Nibali had told reporters there that he’d be willing to go for the Giro in favour of the Tour de France, which he could skip or ride to help Aru.
The statement came as a surprise to Aru, who was not at the route unveiling, and he said the team has yet to decide the programme for their riders next season.
He added: “In this moment I’m just thinking about finishing the season strong, the same goes for Fabio.
“I have the winter to make the programme for the new season, for me the Giro or the Tour and the same goes for Fabio, or he’ll have a different programme. I’m just focusing on Abu Dhabi.”
— Abu Dhabi Tour (@Abu_Dhabi_Tour) October 6, 2015
While many of the stars present in the pre-race press conference voiced how exhausted they were at the end of a long season, playing down their chances of winning in Abu Dhabi, both Astana riders said they have the General Classification red jersey as their main target.
Nibali said: “It is my first time in Abu Dhabi, and it is fantastic to be here. It is my last race of the season, and I am in good shape.
“I have a very good team-mate, too, in Fabio Aru, so we can work together on the climb. To win this race overall is very important.”
Peter Sagan is looking forward to debuting his world champion’s rainbow kit when he takes to the streets of the UAE capital for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour tomorrow but has questioned the weather conditions, stating that there is a lack of extreme heat protocols that should protect riders.
Sagan, who claimed his biggest victory of his career by winning the road race at the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia nine days ago, is one of a host of marquee riders taking part in the new Abu Dhabi showpiece, which represents the season finale for the participating WorldTeams.
The Slovakian four-time Points Classification champion at the Tour de France is no stranger to the UAE, having competed in the Dubai Tour before but is wary of the desert heat in Abu Dhabi.
Temperatures are expected to rise to over 40 degrees during stage one tomorrow, which starts at an unforgiving time of 13:00 at Qasr Al Sarab in Liwa desert and Sagan did not shy away from expressing how he felt about the weather here at the moment.
“Abu Dhabi is a nice city, and I have ridden in the region before, although, after the very crazy week that I have had, it may be a hard race for me, there’ s a long climb on the third stage, and it’s hot, and I don’t like it when it is hot,” the 25-year-old Tinkoff-Saxo rider said in a press conference yesterday at Yas Marina Circuit.
“I still don’t understand why we don’t have rules for weather conditions. I really don’t understand. I hope the temperature drops; it will be good for everybody.”
Sagan later elaborated by adding: “We have organisations to protect us but I don’t understand why (they don’t do anything).
“I think it’s very dangerous when the temperature is above 40. I had a very bad experience with one of my team-mates from Cannondale (Mauro Da Dalto). He had the last climb (at the 2013 Tour of California), it was very hot and he crashed and fell on the asphalt and it was very firing and he had a lot of burns (third degree burns to his backside and required reconstructive surgery) and after he stopped riding on the bike. And I said ‘For what? Is this cycling or what?’”
Former world champion, Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, also mentioned the weather saying: “The temperature difference from Europe is big, so it will be hard to adjust.”
The UCI tested an extreme weather protocol during the Giro d’Italia although they did not set specific limits on temperature or wind speed. The protocol calls for a compulsory meeting between stakeholders when extreme weather conditions are anticipated prior to a stage. The protocol has been approved and should come into effect from the start of 2016.
Most of the top riders mentioned heat as one of the main challenges they will face this week especially having just flown from Europe where autumn weather has officially kicked in. But it is not just the European riders who are concerned.
Hamad Al Marzooqi, Athletes Manager at UAE outfit Skydive Dubai, says he hopes the Abu Dhabi Tour can shift to a more suitable time in the calendar next year to avoid extreme temperatures.
— Tinkoff Saxo (@tinkoff_saxo) October 6, 2015
“We brought our riders early to the UAE on purpose to try and get them to acclimate to the heat,” Al Marzooqi told Sport360.
“Our practices usually started at 4pm but then we were surprised that the stages would be starting at 2pm, which means the temperature will be higher.
“Right now, with the humidity factor, the temperature in Dubai is 36 degrees. But at the start at Liwa, the temperature will be over 40 degrees. So it’ll be tough for everyone.
“I really hope that the Abu Dhabi Tour proves to be a huge success and we dream that it even gets upgraded to 2.HC. But the timing is difficult. I hope that next year it can move to the start of the season instead of October because right now, it’s still hot in the UAE. I worry that the top teams don’t come in the future because of the timing of the race.”
The Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge Build-Up continued Friday with over 500 cyclists taking part in the second of four organised rides before the 92km challenge on 11 December.
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Excitement for the largest cycling event in the Middle East is building and the cyclists covered 45km at the Nad Al Sheba cycle track.
A spokesman for the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge said: “Today’s event has been a huge success and it’s great to see the wonderful community atmosphere and the motivation from all levels of cyclists. The Build-Up ride concept is the prefect platform to practice safe cycling in Dubai and give everyone the support they need as they continue with their training.
Junior riders also have the opportunity to take part in the challenge with dedicated 15km and 30km rides on Thursday, 10 December.
Keen cyclist Joel Preston said: “I took up cycling about 15 years ago and haven’t looked back since. The dedicated Build-Up rides are a safe, community event for all cyclists, whether you want to increase your fitness, get ready for the 92km ride in December or just want to have fun.”
The third Build-Up ride will be 65km in total and held on 30th October at Al Qudra Cycle Path.
To register or find out more about any of the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge events please visit the website here.