A group of lucky cyclists from Abu Dhabi Cycling Club were given the honour of riding alongside UAE Team Emirates’ stars this weekend, as the team hosted a community ride at Al Hudayriat Island cycle track in the UAE capital.
The Emirati formation joined youngsters and adults in an hour-long ride on Saturday evening to showcase the team’s commitment to the development of cycling in the UAE and highlight their partnership with Abu Dhabi Cycling Club.
Riders taking part included UAE national champion Yousif Mirza, Norwegian national champion Vegard Stake Laengen, former Italian national champion and 2015 Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru and 2018 Tour de France stage winners Alexander Kristoff and Dan Martin.
Also on show were the team’s recent signings, Portuguese twins Ivo and Rui Oliveira, Colombian Sergio Henao and Belgian, Jasper Philipsen.
Commenting on the ride, Mirza said: “I always like to ride with cyclists here in the UAE and it means even more being able to do it alongside my teammates. It is important we are seen as an influence for these youngsters and give them something to aspire to.”
Aru added: “We always enjoy coming to the UAE, meeting fans and seeing how cycling is developing here. The ambition is to make cycling one of the most participated in sports in the region and it’s great to be here and see how the team is helping shape that movement.”
Following the ride, UAE Team Emirates took the opportunity to head into the desert and take in some of the UAE’s stunning scenery.
The 2019 Tour de France will include a record 30 mountain passes and five summit finishes after organisers unveiled a route intended to encourage aggressive racing.
At a ceremony in Paris attended by reigning champion Geraint Thomas, his Sky team-mate Chris Froome and a host of other riders past and present, organisers ASO unveiled the details of a route Tour director Christian Prudhomme said was intended not to be more difficult, but more difficult to control.
Team Sky have won six of the past seven editions of the Tour, using the strength of their well-funded squad to grind down opponents.
That is something organisers want to end – to the extent that Prudhomme used the presentation to appeal to watching UCI president David Lappartient to ban power meters.
With the goal of creating more exciting racing, organisers unveiled a route which features fewer hors categorie climbs – the most difficult of all – but more category two climbs which can encourage attacks.
There are also just 54 kilometres of time-trialling, including an Alpine test on stage 20.
The Tour – which marks 100 years since the introduction of the yellow jersey to signify the overall leader – will begin in Brussels, paying tribute to all-time great Eddy Merckx on the 50th anniversary of the first of his five overall victories.
The climbing begins in earnest on stage six to La Planche des Belles Filles. This was the scene of Froome’s stage victory in 2012 but next year there will be a further kilometre – including gradients of 20 per cent – added to the route to make it even harder.
From there, the riders will head south west across France towards the Pyrenees, where there will be a time trial around Pau, a summit finish on the famed Tourmalet, and a stage which goes over the imposing Mur de Peguere before finishing above Foix at Prat d’Albis.
The final battles will be fought in the Alps. A brutal stage 18 will take riders over the Col de Vars, the Col d’Izoard and the Galibier within the space of 207km.
A day later, the 123km stage 19 includes the Col d’Iseran, the highest paved road in Europe at 2,770m.
And the 2019 Tour champion will be known after the 33.4km time trial up to the finish at Val Thorens, at an altitude of 2,365m.
Merckx was joined at the ceremony by Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, the only other men to have won the Tour five times besides the late Jacques Anquetil. It is a club Froome is one Tour victory short of joining, having been beaten to yellow by his own team-mate this July.
Though the mountains took the headlines, 30-time stage winner Mark Cavendish – aiming to match Merckx’s all-time record of 34 – was on hand to hear about a route which includes seven flat stages where sprinters might prosper.
In total the race will cover 3,460km from the opening stage on Saturday, July 6 to the finish in Paris on July 28.
Organisers also announced details of La Course, the women’s race which takes place during the Tour.
This year’s race will be a one-day event, covering five laps of the time trial course around Pau for a total distance of 120km.
The route includes the Cote d’Esquillot, which could prove the springboard for a race-winning attack.
Fernando Gaviria will join UAE Team Emirates for the new season, despite having a year left to run on his contract with Quick-Step Floors.
The Colombian sprinter had a contract in place until the end of 2019 but his future has been up in the air in recent weeks. A report in Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this month linked him with a switch to UAE Team Emirates.
The 24-year-old, who won two stages in his Tour de France debut this year, was given permission to talk to other teams, and negotiations developed with UAE Team Emirates.
He is now set to link up with his new team in Abu Dhabi this weekend where they will hold a training camp until October 30.
Speaking about his move, Gaviria said: “I change team after having always raced in the same group, which has given me the possibility to make the next jump to the highest level.”
“With the new jersey, I’m not going to hide my desires and I want the biggest wins. I’m happy to be able to race with my countrymen Henao, Muñoz and Molano.
“Thanks to the UAE Team Emirates for the faith it put in me.”