The racing continues to come thick and fast for UAE Team Emirates as they face three back to back events in Italy this week.
The team will line-up for the Tre Valli Varesine, Milano-Torino and at the Gran Piemonte.
Making his return to the Emirati team will be Rui Costa, who secured a top 10 finish at the World Championships in Innsbruck and will spearhead the line-up at Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday.
Supporting the former World Champion will be teammates: Andrea Bagioli, Matteo Bono, Edward Ravasi, Aleksandr Riabushenko, Ben Swift and Oliviero Troia.
Meanwhile, Milano-Torino will see the return of two of UAE Team Emirates’ stars – former Italian National Champion, Fabio Aru and Tour de France stage winner, Dan Martin.
The pair will join Rui Costa as the main protagonists of the team, with the trio relying on support from Andrea Bagioli, Filippo Ganna, Jan Polanc and Rory Sutherland.
In the final race on Tuesday, the Gran Piemonte, it will be Nicolas Tivani leading the line-up alongside Filippo Ganna, the latter of whom finished second in the Individual Time Trial (ITT) at the Italian National Championships last week. The pair are supported by Marco Marcato, Manuele Mori, Simone Petilli, Edward Ravasi and Rory Sutherland.
Sports Director Mario Scirea, who will guide the team over the three days, commented: “We’re expecting three interesting races in which we can line up some important riders. Rui Costa will find routes suited to his skills in the Tre Valli Varesine and in the Milano-Torino we will have several options, since Aru and Martin will also be there. In the Gran Piemonte, Tivani could have a good chance if the race ends in a sprint. We will try to make the most of the three races as we prepare our approach to Il Lombardia.”
Veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde ended years of frustration to win the world championships road race on Sunday after outpacing France’s Romain Bardet and Canada’s Michael Woods in a thrilling sprint for the finish line.
The trio had boosted their victory chances after crossing the summit of the notoriously difficult Hottinger hill ‘Hell’ climb, featuring one steep section at a whopping 29 percent gradient, to leave key rivals in their wake.
And despite being joined with a little over one kilometre to go by Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, Valverde held his nerve inside the final metres to race unchallenged to the finish line, where he beat Bardet by a bike length.
A breathless Valverde, who finished runner-up in 2003, broke down with the emotion of finally securing the rainbow jersey — arguably the most prestigious prize in the sport.
“It’s incredible, after all these years, struggling for the world title and to finally get it,” he said.
“Words can’t describe how grateful I am for the effort of the whole Spain team and the work they did too.”
As soon as the quartet came into the final kilometre the Spaniard had looked the most likely to win. Both Bardet and Woods are stronger climbers while all-rounder Dumoulin also lacks Valverde’s top-end finishing speed.
“I knew I was possibly the strongest and was waiting for someone to make a move,” he said.
Pre-race favourite, Julian Alaphilippe of France, Briton Simon Yates and Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and the last of the Colombians were dropped on the steep gradients of the final climb.
Simon Yates has identified Julian Alaphilippe as the man to beat in Sunday’s elite men’s race at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Innsbruck.
La Vuelta winner Yates will race alongside twin brother Adam in Great Britain’s eight-member team, with both considered strong contenders on a challenging 258.5km route which suits their climbing strengths.
But many eyes are on the powerful French team, which includes Alaphilippe – winner of the King of the Mountains classification in this year’s Tour de France – as well as the likes of Romain Bardet, Rudy Molard, Warren Barguil, Thibaut Pinot and Tony Gallopin.
“I think Alaphilippe is the main favourite, you have to look at him,” Simon said.
“He’s in very good form, he’s won many good races and he’s backed by a very good team, for sure the strongest team. They have many cards to play so it’s not just him.”
Simon also picked out Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde while Adam threw the net wider, saying he would not rule out reigning world champion Peter Sagan winning a fourth rainbow jersey in a row despite a course most think is too difficult for the Slovakian – particularly the brutal 28 per cent gradients of the final climb.
“You can’t count him out, can you?” he said. “You saw in the Rio Olympics when Greg Van Avermaet won. Everyone said it was too hard and then a classics guy pulled out the win.
“We all know how good (Alaphilippe) is uphill and downhill, but I don’t think there’s any one favourite.”