From a top-seven team by the end of this season, to one of the top outfits in cycling by 2020, the expectations for UAE Team Emirates continue to rise.
After getting their feet wet in last season’s inaugural campaign, the team significantly raised the talent on their roster with the additions of big names in Alexander Kristoff, Fabio Aru and Dan Martin.
And as the profile and level of the squad grows, so does Mauro Gianetti’s belief that UAE Team Emirates can compete with the best.
“The target of this year was to first increase the level of the team. With Fabio Aru, Kristoff and other very good riders on the team, the main goal is to be one of the top seven teams in the world by the end of the year,” said the UAE Team Emirates general manger.
“And of course to be a team like (co-manager and former cyclist) Giuseppe Saronni, a team that shows courage during the race. Not just waiting, but take the race in hand in the big tours like the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and of course the classics like Milan-San Remo, Flanders and others.”
Considering the riders at their disposal now, that goal appears more than attainable.
Aru has a Vuelta a Espana title (2015) to his name, along with the young rider classification in the Giro d’italia (2015) and a stage victory at last year’s Tour de France.
Martin, meanwhile, has stage triumphs in both the Vuelta (2011) and Tour de France (2013).
The collective resume of UAE Team Emirates means that the time is now for the squad to at least put on respectable showings in the Grand Tours and Classics.
I will be at the start of the @giroditalia! My choice to participate to the Giro has been done with conviction... (please read here the entire quote: https://t.co/qf56j5FsaM) #ilcavalieredei4mori pic.twitter.com/FUvhW1bnxR— Fabio Aru (@FabioAru1) February 19, 2018
“Expectations this season are at another level. With riders like Kristoff, Aru and Martin, we hope they will be protagonists in the Classics,” said Gianetti.
“In Milan-San Remo and these types of Classics, we didn’t have a lot of good riders last year. With Aru and Martin, when we go to the Giro and to the Vuelta, we will be at another level with riders fighting for the GC (general classification).”
While the roster is in place for UAE Team Emirates to make good on their short-term target, Gianetti recognises that they will have to keep evolving to reach the bigger goal – one that is still years down the road.
Gianetti said: “The dream and the vision is to by 2020 be one of the top teams in the world.”
UAE Team Emirates rider Alexander Kristoff won Sunday’s sixth and final stage as Alexey Lutsenko clinched overall victory at the Tour of Oman.
Reigning European champion Kristoff sprinted to victory along the Muscat corniche, a hair ahead of France’s Bryan Coquard and Giamco Nizzolo of Italy in a little over three hours on the 135.5km course.
And the bunch sprint finish meant overnight leader Lutsenko held on to claim overall victory with Astana team-mate Miguel Moreno of Colombia second and Spaniard Gorka Insausti third.
“I’m very happy to have won my first victory with UAE Team Emirates,” said Kristoff. “I feel so much faith from the team and I’ve always had strong men at my side in these first races of the season.
“I enjoy this finish a lot. I won already here in 2016 and 2017, so I knew that today would be an optimum chance to succeed.”
In the final overall classification, Rui Costa finished in 10th place, 1 minute 37 seconds behind race winner Lutsenko.
UAE Team Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff produced another scintillating ride to grab seventh place on stage one of the Tour of Oman on Tuesday.
It was the reigning European champion’s fifth successive top-10 finish in a week – after a consistent showing at the Dubai Tour last week.
The Norwegian joined the counter-attacking group early on in the race and was successful in tackling the high-speed finish after overcoming three other riders to narrowly miss out on a top five place.
French cyclist Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) won the first stage, edging out Mark Cavendish and Giacomo Nizzolo in the final sprint.
Coquard cycled the 162.5km route from the city of Nizwa to Sultan Qaboos University campus in the capital Muscat, in just under four hours.
Former world champion Rui Costa, who finished in 36th place, said stage one was not too difficult as the riders gear up for a gruelling 167.5km stretch featuring four classified climbs from Muscat to Al Bustan on Wednesday.
He said: “The stage in Oman was not too demanding, so probably not a hard test for the bike either. However the course for stage two will be hilly and I’m sure then new bike will perform well and support me as I aim to achieve a positive result.”
Meanwhile, Marco Marcato (56th), Przemyslaw Niemiec (94th), Kristijan Durasek (104th), Roberto Ferrari (105th) and Oliviero Troia (110th) were among the other finishers for UAE Team Emirates.
Elsewhere, Dan Martin will make his highly anticipated race debut for the team in Portugal on Wednesday, as the 31-year-old Irishman takes part in the Volta ao Algarve alongside a strong line-up of riders.
Also making his first start will be Rory Sutherland of Australia, who is determined to use his 15 years experience to support Martin in his quest for the yellow jersey.
Martin, a Tour de France stage winner in 2013, will compete in southern Portugal alongside team-mates Ben Swift, Jan Polanc, Vegard Stake Laengen, Valerio Conti and Edward Ravasi.
Martin said: “I have a mixture of nerves and excitement going to Portugal. There is always anxiety to get back to racing and find out where the fitness levels are, but I feel good and have trained well over the winter months, but racing is of course always different.
“It will take time to learn how to race well together, but we have already completed two nice training camps where we have got to know each other.
“I’m confident that we have a very strong team coming to Algarve, so I can’t wait to get started.”