Dubai Tour 2018 line-up announced as 16 teams enter competition

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Marcel Kittel won in Dubai in both 2016 and 2017.

The 16 teams invited to the fifth edition of the Dubai Tour – taking place from 6 to 10 February 2018 – have been officially announced.

Nine UCI WorldTour Teams, five UCI Professional Continental Teams, one UCI Continental Team and one UAE National Selection team will be at the start of the five-stage professional cycling race organised by the Dubai Sports Council in collaboration with RCS Sport.

Each team will consist of seven riders and below is the full line-up.

UCI WORLDTOUR TEAMS

ASTANA PRO TEAM – KAZ

Astana is part of the Astana President’s Professional Sports Club, which was created by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, N.A. Nazarbayev, in 2012.

Astana’s palmares includes an Olympic gold medal (Alexander Vinokourov, now General Manager, won the Men’s Road Race, London 2012), eight Grand Tour victories (three Giri d’Italia with Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador, three Vueltas a España with Fabio Aru, Vinokurov and Alberto Contador, two Tours de France with Contador and Nibali), 41 Grand Tour stage wins, and 185 others victories.

The man to watch in Dubai should be Colombian all-rounder Miguel Ángel López.

Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno

BAHRAIN-MERIDA – BRN

Founded in 2016, Bahrain-Merida is a team supported by a consortium of businesses and partners from the island of Bahrain and His Highness Sheikh Nasser.

This is the second season under the reign of Brent Copeland, the team’s General Manager. In its inaugural season Bahrain-Merida got 12 wins (including Il Lombardia, the Italian Monument race) and two prestigious podiums with Vincenzo Nibali, third at the Giro d’Italia (behind Tom Dumoulin and Nairo Quintana) and second at the Vuelta a Espana (behind Chris Froome).

For Dubai the roster could include Sonny Colbrelli, who would be in contention for all of the stages.

BMC RACING TEAM – USA

This UCI WorldTour team, headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, was formed in 2006.

A founding member of Velon, last year BMC Racing Team recorded 48 race wins; the most important were the Paris-Roubaix and the Gent Wevelgem won by Greg Van Avermaet, the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Romandie won by Richie Porte and the Vuelta a Espana’s Team Time Trial.

Spearheading their race will be winner of the 2017 UCI WorldTour ranking, Greg Van Avermaet.

Greg Van Avermaet

QUICK-STEP FLOORS – BEL

This WorldTour team is based in Wevelgem, Belgium, the heartland of Flemish cycling. At the helm is Patrick Lefevere, one of the most successful managers in the history of cycling.

Since 2003, the team has recorded more than 600 victories and last year’s achievements includes five stages at the Tour de France, five at the Giro d’Italia, six at the Vuelta a Espana, the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the Amstel Gold Race with Philippe Gilbert, and Paris-Tours with Matteo Trentin.

The Dutchman Niki Terpstra and Italian Elia Viviani, who has won two previous stages in Dubai (in 2015 and 2016), will both be at the start on 6 February.

TEAM DIMENSION DATA – RSA

Founded in 2007, Dimension Data became the first ever African cycling team to gain a WorldTour licence, in 2016.

The team’s palmares includes a Milan-Sanremo victory (Gerald Ciolek in 2013), seven Tour de France stages, one Vuelta stage victory, one Giro d’Italia stage and two Tour of Britain overall classification wins (Edvald Boasson Hagen, 2015; Steve Cummings, 2016).

The team was originally known as MTN–Qhubeka. The 2018 roster is built around its main sprinter Mark Cavendish. The Manxman won the 2015 Dubai Tour and he will definitely be focused on achieving a Dubai Tour double.

Mark Cavendish

TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN – SUI

Katusha was originally a Russian-licensed cycling team, becoming a Swiss outfit in 2016. Team Katusha Alpecin’s palmares boasts 22 Grand Tour stage wins. Among last year’s 17 victories, the major achievement was the Tour de Suisse General Classification with Simon Špilak.

For 2018, Katusha Alpecin hired one of the best sprinters, Marcel Kittel, the back-to-back winner here in Dubai, where he has won a record eight stages in three editions.

The German will be the favourite to win the Circle of Stars and the Point classification too.

TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO – NED

This Dutch cycling team was founded in 1984 under the name Kwantum, anchored by Jan Raas, and since 2015 the head sponsor has been Lotto-Jumbo.

Last year Team Lotto NL-Jumbo recorded 26 wins. The most prestigious of those were the final stage of the Giro d’Italia with Jos Van Emden and two Tour de France stages with Primoz Roglic (Stage 17) and Dylan Groenewegen on the Champs-Élysées (Stage 21).

For the Dubai Tour, the probable roster will include Dylan Groenewegen. Last year the Dutch sprinter featured on the podium every day and finished third in the General Classification behind Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb.

TREK-SEGAFREDO – USA

Founded in 2011 as Leopard Trek, this US team’s biggest achievements are the Vuelta a España victory by Chris Horner in 2013, two Tours of Flanders and a Paris-Roubaix win, thanks to Fabian Cancellara.

Last year’s victories included one Tour de France stage with Bauke Mollema and one at the Vuelta a España with Alberto Contador. John Degenkolb and Giacomo Nizzolo could be the Trek-Segafredo riders to watch in the Dubai Tour.

The German has always done well in Dubai: he won the Hatta stage in 2015 and the sprint in Fujairah last year (Stage 2). Without the cancellation of Stage 4, he would certainly have competed with Marcel Kittel for the General classification.

In 2016, the Italian sprinter wore the blue jersey for one day and finished second in the General Classification behind Marcel Kittel.

John Degenkolb

UAE TEAM EMIRATES – UAE

Known for 20 years as Lampre, last season the team was rebranded as UAE Emirates. Managed by the former Italian champion Giuseppe Saronni, in 2017 the team recorded 19 victories, including one stage at the Giro d’Italia (Jan Polanc) and one at the Vuelta a España (Matej Mohoric).

For Dubai, look out for the Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff, in his first season in the UAE Team Emirates jersey, and the Italian puncheur Diego Ulissi.

UCI PROFESSIONAL CONTINENTAL TEAMS

AQUA BLUE SPORT – IRL

Ireland’s first UCI Professional Continental Cycling Team, set up by businessman Rick Delaney, made its debut in the 2017 season and won four races, including a Vuelta a España stage with the Austrian Stefan Denifl.

For Dubai look out for the English Adam Blythe and the American Larry Warbasse.

Adam Blythe

COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS – FRA

Founded in France in 1996, last year this UCI Professional Continental team recorded 13 wins. Seven of those were thanks to the 27-year-old sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, who will be included in the 2018 Dubai Tour roster.

RALLY CYCLING – USA

Founded in the US in 2008, Rally Cycling recorded 19 victories last year; most of them on the American or Canadian race circuits. 2018 sees Rally Cycling make its debut in Dubai.

TEAM NOVO NORDISK – USA

This global sports team made up entirely from athletes with diabetes comprises more than 100 cyclists, triathletes and runners from 20 countries, and is spearheaded by the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team, based in the US.

Founded in 2005 by Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge, Team Novo Nordisk’s mission is to inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes.

The cycling team has amassed more than 30 victories since 2008.

WILIER TRIESTINA – SELLE ITALIA – ITA

Founded in 2008, the team managed by Angelo Citracca has an interesting palmares, including four stage wins at the Giro d’Italia.

Wilier Triestina – Selle Italia recorded 18 wins last year, 14 of them with the Italian sprinter Jakub Mareczko.

Jakub Mareczko

UCI CONTINENTAL TEAM

MITCHELTON-BIKEEXCHANGE – CHN

This Chinese-licensed team was set up last year as a Mitchelton-Scott development team and recorded eight wins during the 2017 season.

SPECIAL GUEST TEAM

UAE National Selection – UAE

A special team of riders representing the Emirates will be a big draw for the local supporters and ensure that the highest-calibre Middle-Eastern racers rub shoulders with the best cyclists in the world at the Dubai Tour.

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Mirza flies UAE flag with distinction

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Yousif Mirza’s debut with the newly-formed UAE Abu Dhabi team ended with a respectable 13th-place in the Dubai Tour and he also captured Tag Heuer’s “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” award.

The 28-year-old is the first Emirati cyclist to ride for a WorldTeam and he made sure he enjoyed a successful campaign on home soil.

Mirza crossed the finish line in 21st place in Saturday’s fifth and final stage and he was pleased with how things went throughout the fourth edition of the race. He had taken part in the Dubai Tour in previous years but only as part of a UAE national selection side or as the leader of Continental Team Nasr-Dubai, which no longer exists.

He has now made a step up to the big leagues after Abu Dhabi invested in a WorldTeam that was previously under the Lampre guise.

“It’s been an invaluable experience, and a very new one as well. From a professional standpoint, from a technical standpoint, it’s been a novel experience from every angle,” Mirza told Sport360 of his UAE Abu Dhabi debut.

“The strategy for each stage, how to deal with a stage race like this, where to be placed within each stage… Every rider has a role and task – what is your exact role? That is something I’ve lacked in the past.

“My task for stage one was just to finish the race, in the second stage my target was to be in the breakaway, the third stage my role was to help my team at the finish line, stage four was canceled and stage five the goal was the breakaway.”

Mirza was unable to feature in the breakaway yesterday but still made the podium twice – once with UAE Abu Dhabi for winning the team classification, and once to receive his Tag Heuer prize.

“It’s the first time for me to be honoured on a podium amongst such great riders like the ones we have here so it’s a special feeling,” he explains.

“I feel great now, it’s mission accomplished as far as the Dubai Tour is concerned. Thankfully I finished 13th overall in the GC, which is a fantastic achievement, for myself as a rider, and for UAE cycling in general.”

Mirza next heads to the Tour of Oman, which starts on February 14, before returning to the UAE for the Abu Dhabi Tour (February 23-26).

“I love racing in this region, it’s what I’m accustomed to, the weather and everything. Europe is a whole other story. I must get used to that. I know I will. The training camp we had in Italy was very cold. Taking 45 minutes to get ready and wear warm clothes before you to be prepared for the weather… Europe will be a different challenge,” he said.

UAE Abu Dhabi sport director Orlando Maini hailed Mirza’s efforts at the Dubai Tour and stressed it was important not to overwhelm the Emirati rider with too many high targets from the start.

“We are aware that Yousif owns the skills which are suitable to face this new challenge for him, we’re aware of his good qualities. But it’s important not to put too much pressure on him in these early appearances with the team because it’s important that he can exploit his skills without pressure. We’re aware that race by race, without pressure, he’ll be comfortable with this new level of racing for him,” said Maini.

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WATCH: Kittel on Dubai Tour win

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Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) won the fourth edition of the Dubai Tour, crossing the finish line first in the Dubai City Walk in a bunch sprint, after 124km of racing.

On the podium he received the Circle of Stars, the winner’s trophy, from H.H. Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Seconds after the stage finish, a victorious Marcel Kittel said: “I’m extremely proud of what I achieved today: my second Dubai Tour overall in a row, my 75th career victory… When I came back to Dubai, I thought this is a nice race, it’s a goal for me, but I didn’t think it would go so well. The team did a really god job. It’s a very nice way to start the season.”

Did you see the German race home over the finish line?


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