In the second of the season’s three Grand Tour races, UAE Team Emirates will rightly have high hopes having enjoyed an impressive outing at the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year.
Jan Polanc claimed 11th place in the overall General Classification in the Italian mountains, with the Slovenian also winning Stage 4, while there were numerous top 10 and stage podium places – including three second places for Portugal’s Rui Costa.
Hopes will be especially high with South African pocket rocket Louis Meintjes leading their charge for possible GC glory following an impressive eighth-placed finish overall last year.
The 25-year-old is also the favourite for the young riders’ white jersey having claimed second place behind Orica-Scott’s Adam Yates in 2016. It will be his last chance to win the battle for the maillot blanc (awarded to riders aged 25 or under in the current year).
Among the UAE’s talented nine-strong contingent, Italy’s Diego Ulissi and Britain’s Ben Swift will also be targeting stage wins as well as riding in support of Meintjes.
Here Sport360 talks to the trio about their form and hopes coming into Le Tour.
Q: What are your hopes going into the tour?
A: I will debut in the Tour de France. I feel that it is something important in a career of a top rider and I’m really curious to test myself in this new challenge. I’d like for this new experience to give me satisfaction.
Q: How do you feel your own personal form is coming into this and that of the team?
A: Having changed my seasonal program, comparing to all my past years as pro, the training programs were also changed. However, I feel I managed to train well and the altitude training camps will be helpful for facing the most demanding race in the world. The line-up for the Tour de France is full of high quality riders, so I’m very happy I’ll be in the Grande Boucle with such top team mates.
Q: The first Grand Tour of the season in Italy was very positive and the team had some very good results in the stages, with Jan Polanc finishing well in the GC and Rui getting a few stage podiums. Does this give you confidence heading into TdF that you can do well again or even better?
A: The team was great in the Giro, every day they gave great exposure to the team and excited the team’s fans. It will be difficult to do the same in the Tour, however we’ll try to have the same attitude and we’ll try to do our best.
Q: Do you feel the performances and the bond between the team/riders has got stronger the longer the season has progressed?
A: Yes, of course. I have been in the sport for many years and achieved many top results in the past, however we’re still hungry for victory and satisfactions to dedicate to our sponsors. The bond with them and between the riders is strong. We are proud that our mission is to inspire people to feel the passion for cycling.
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