The 2019 UAE Tour begins in Abu Dhabi on Sunday with a time-trial race before finishing at Dubai City Walk on March 2.
Here we look at six riders set to shine.
CHRIS FROOME (England)
Team: Team Sky
The five-time Grand Tour winner will compete in the UAE for the first time next week as he slowly builds up his preparations for the Tour de France in July. The 33-year-old Englishman is keen to deliver success in order to help Team Sky secure new sponsorship, with the broadcaster’s decision to end its investment in cycling after 2019 leaving the outfit with an uncertain future. A positive display in the Hajar mountains will surely boost positivity for Froome after he struggled during his season opener at the Tour of Colombia last week.
RICHIE PORTE (Australia)
The Australian enjoyed another strong start to the season, with a sixth successive victory on the Willunga Hill stage of the Tour Down Under last month. The 34-year-old will be hoping to continue his solid form in the UAE with his key focus being the Tour de France later this year. The Tasmanian rider certainly has the skills to win a Grand Tour, being both an outstanding climber and strong time triallist, but injuries have restricted his progress in previous years. Now, with Trek-Segafrdo, perhaps a new team, new coach, new programme and new motivation could guide him in the right direction.
TOM DUMOULIN (Holland)
Team: Team Sunweb
The Dutchman showed his class and racing instinct when finishing second in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France last year. Aside from stage wins at both Grand Tour events, he came fourth in the UCI Road World Championships and Deutschland Tour. Confidence and ability is never an issue with Dumoulin but 2019 needs to be the year where he steps up another level again. The volume and severity of the climbs in the Emirates makes him the best outside Froome, but he also has the pace to claim stage wins in the time-trial on Sunday and, who knows, maybe contend overall.
ALEJANDRO VALVERDE (Spain)
Team: Team Movistar
The evergreen Murcia man won every week-long stage race he entered in 2018, with victory at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Abu Dhabi Tour, Volta a Catalunya and La Route d’Occitanie. But it was his World Championship triumph in October that proved extra special as he ended a 15-year wait for the coveted rainbow jersey. While many cyclists would be a fading force at 38, Valverde continues to look strong on the climbs and should be in contention at some stage in the UAE next week, especially in the mountains where he reigned supreme in Jebel Hafeet at last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour.
ELIA VIVIANI (Italy)
One of the stars of 2018, Viviani sealed a sizzling 18 stage victories – including four at the Giro d’Italia, the Italian road race national championship, the Cyclassics Hamburg and three stage wins at the Vuelta a Esapana. In fact, his 18 wins were 24 per cent of the stunning 73 stage wins racked up by Deceuninck–Quick-Step last season. Returning to the Emirates this week, the 30-year-old Verona native will be backed up by the experienced Philippe Gilbert and Fabio Sabatini, so expect him to shine on stages two, five and seven.
FERNANDO GAVIRIA (Colombia)
Team: Team UAE Emirates
Although he was forced to withdraw from the recent Tour of Colombia due to illness, Gaviria should be one of the leading lights on show at UAE Team Emirates’ home race. With two stage wins from the 2018 Tour de France as well as winning the 2017 Giro d’Italia green jersey, plenty is expected from the supremely talented 24-year-old. And with the slow demise of Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish, the Colombian should clinch at least one stage win in Dubai or Abu Dhabi depending on how dominant Viviani is on the roads.
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