UAE Team Emirates’ Yousif Mirza will be hoping to cap off the Holy month of Ramadan with a positive result as he joins teammates at the Tour of Slovenia, which gets underway in Lendava on Wednesday.
Mirza, who was recently recognised by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the UAE’s outstanding sportsmen of the year, will be looking to add to his medal haul and help continue the team’s rich vein of form following recent wins at the Criterium du Dauphine and the GP du Canton d’Argovie.
The 29-year-old completed a hat-trick of medal wins after capturing the continental title in the points race at the Asian Track Cycling Championships in Malaysia in March, as well as the Asian Road Cycling Championship and the Omnium Track Cycling silver medal earlier this year.
Joining the UAE National Champion in Slovenia will be teammates Matteo Bono, Simone Consonni, Kristijan Durasek, Vegard Stake Laengen, Przemyslaw Niemic and Alexandr Riabushenko.
Commenting on the upcoming race, the Khor Fakkan native said: “I’m happy to be racing in Europe; it’s been a few weeks since my last race at the Tour of California so I hope I can be useful to the team.
“The Tour of Slovenia is an interesting competition and our line-up is well balanced so we can aim for good results.”
Sporting Director Bruno Vicino added: “The Tour of Slovenia has undergone some renovations compared to past editions. We will have to be ready to compete on each individual stage, day by day.
“We will be counting on fast riders like Consonni, who could get a couple of chances, whilst Durasek will be aiming to stand out in some of the more challenging stages.
“The rest of the team will be looking to take advantage of any interesting opportunities, especially in the breakaway.”
The 2.1 ranked UCI European Tour race will see riders tackle five stages, spanning a total of 664km.
Wednesday’s opening stage takes riders through the eastern region of Slovenia and is open for the sprinters with just one category four climb featuring at 56km.
UAE Team Emirates’ Dan Martin produced another consistent ride to grab sixth place on the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday.
It was the Irishman’s fourth top-10 finish this week – after building further on his consistent showing at the Tour de Romandie at the end of April.
The 31-year-old joined the counter-attacking group early on in the race and was successful in chasing down the escape initiated by Edward Ravasi until the final 10 kilometres.
On the climb to Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, he attempted to move free but had to remain satisfied with his win on stage five.
Briton Adam Yates (Mitchelton–Scott) won the concluding 136km stage ahead of overall winner Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Daniel Navarro Garcia (Cofidis).
In the final overall classification, Martin finished in fourth, 2 minute 35 seconds behind the victorious Welshman.
And with the Tour de France starting in less than a month, it was the perfect preparation for Martin as he bids to improve on his sixth place finish in the 2017 edition of the race.
He said: “I felt good the entire stage, but in the final kilometers, my legs didn’t respond how I thought they would.
“I’m still happy with the overall results in this race. I’m at a physical level I didn’t really expect for this time of the year.”
Although he did not add to his two podium finishes in previous editions of the Criterium, Martin was still pleased to have completed Sunday’s final stage in fourth position in the General Classifications.
“I won a beautiful stage and I took fourth overall. The team were very young here and they rode well at my side and continued to work strongly the entire week. They were incredible,” Martin said.
“We struggled in the team time trial, but in the mountain stages, my teammates were always there, and were first in the escapes and then with support.
“Now, I’m going to recover for a few days and then build towards the Tour de France.”
Best for UAE Team Emirates on stage seven were: Valerio Conti (16th), Edward Ravasi (17th), Simone Petilli (76th) and Rory Sutherland (90th).
Geraint Thomas survived a late scare to win the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday as Adam Yates won the final stage to consolidate second place.
Team Sky’s Thomas suffered two punctures during the 136-kilometre stage from Moutiers to St Gervais Mont Blanc, but took a wheel from a team-mate on the second occasion and was paced back to the peloton by Michal Kwiatkowski and Dylan van Baarle.
The 32-year-old Welshman eventually finished fifth, 19 seconds behind Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) whose 10-second time bonus for winning the stage reduced his overall deficit to Thomas to one minute exactly.
“It’s amazing to win such a prestigious race,” Thomas said in quotes reported on the race’s official website.
“It’s incredible. I didn’t let myself think so far ahead. I was always thinking of the next day or the next day. Now I realise I’ve won a massive race.
“Punctures today didn’t really help. I had to chase back on. The guys rode really well for me. On the last climb, I just knew I had about 1’20” to lose on Yatesy.
“Each kilometre I was more confident and happier. Finally, at 200 (metres) to go, when they started sprinting for the win, I was relieved. I can rest a little bit and wait for July. This is a confidence booster for the Tour (de France).”
Spain’s Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) had looked set to win the stage until Yates launched a late attack from the chasing group and caught Navarro on the final bend.
France’s Romain Bardet finished third on the stage and in the general classification, with Ireland’s Dan Martin 48 seconds behind in fourth.