Ben Swift is confident UAE Team Emirates are capable of a top 10 finish in their debut campaign on the UCI WorldTour.
The team was created in just 10 days towards the end of 2016 after Chinese backing for Giuseppe Saronni’s Lampre-Merida team fell through, and UAE Abu Dhabi were the 18th and last team to be granted WorldTour status by cycling’s governing body on December 20.
The team yesterday officially changed its name to UAE Team Emirates with the Dubai-based airline coming on board as co-main sponsor, and 29-year-old Brit Swift is sure success can come quickly.
“I think the top 10 is achievable. If you look at the team we’ve got now we’ve got some good riders,” the former Team Sky rider said at the revamped team’s media launch ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Tour yesterday.
Swift, one of the newest members of the team, has been encouraged by the early weeks of the cycling season which have been encouraging for the Emirates’ team, with captain Rui Costa having just claimed second overall at the Tour of Oman on Sunday.
Slovakian rider Marko Kump finished on the podium at the WorldTour season-opening Tour Down Under in Australia last month, where Swift himself finished fourth on Stage 4, while Italy’s Diego Ulisi was fifth overall.
“If Diego can have a good year, if I can have a better year than I’ve had in the past, if Rui can achieve what he did in the Grand Tours again we’ve got a lot of strength in depth,” added Swift.
“I don’t see a reason why we can’t achieve that (top 10 finish). As a team we want to try and win as much as possible and race with passion.”
The top 10 dream is shared by team president Matar Al Dhaheri, whose vision doesn’t stop there.
“We are aiming to be in the top 10. That’s our plan, step by step,” said Al Dhaheri.
“After that we hope to be in the top five next year, and then keep on building after that, slowly but surely. We have an aim to eventually be a top three team in the next few years. We’re very positive and confident about that.”
The third staging of the Abu Dhabi Tour, which starts tomorrow, holds special significance this year. It will offer WorldTour points for the first time after being upgraded to elite status, and Swift also believes the home town team can achieve success with stage wins and even overall victory.
“Both. I think we’ve got realistic potential with Rui Costa and Diego Ulissi. We’ve got one of the fastest guys in the field too with Andrea Guardini who’s won stages here before, so I don’t see why we can’t win,” said the Rotherham native.
“All we can do is perform professionally, ride as a team and do our best and show off the jersey.”
The Abu Dhabi Tour begins tomorrow with the Emirates Motor Company Stage in Madinat Zayed, with Estonia’s Tanel Kangert, of Astana, the defending champion.
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