UAE Team Emirates have a double bill of racing in Germany next week, starting with one-day WorldTour race, the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg (August 25), which is swiftly followed by a four-day race around the country, the Deutchland Tour (August 29-September 1).
Hamburg is one for the sprinters and the seven-man squad will ride in support of Alexander Kristoff, who has not only won the race, but been on the podium a further three times. They will be guided by sports directors Allan Peiper and Neil Stephens.
Joining Kristoff will be his fellow Norwegians Sven Erik Bystrom and Vegard Stake Laengen, as well as Italy’s Roberto Ferrari, Portugal youngster Rui Oliveira, rising Belgian star Jasper Philipsen and Australian veteran Rory Sutherland.
Pieper said: “We will be at the start of the race focusing on Alexander Kristoff. The team has been put together to give him adequate support and to be at the heart of the action during the race and in the final.”
The Deutschland Tour will see the Emirati outfit opt for a mix of climbers and fast men, under the guidance of Simone Pedrazzini and Bruno Vicino. Kristoff is again included, as is Stake Laengen. They will be joined by Italian duo Diego Ulissi and Simone Consonni as well as Ireland’s Dan Martin and Belarus’ Aleksandr Riabushenko.
“With Kristoff we will try to be up in the mix in the sprints on stages three and four,” explained Pedrazzini. “Martin and Ulissi will aim for the general classification, with Consonni, Laengen and Riabushenko working in support.“
With less than a week to go until the Vuelta a Espana starts in Torrevieja, UAE Team Emirates has named its eight man squad for the last Grand Tour of the season.
Fabio Aru and Fernando Gaviria spearhead the Emirati formation, who will have support from a well-rounded team, including rising star Tadej Pogacar who will earn his first ever Grand Tour cap.
The squad is topped off with the Italian trio of Valerio Conti, Oliviero Troia and Marco Marcato, as well as the Colombian duo of Sergio Henao and Juan Sebastian Molano.
The 21 stages of this year’s Vuelta will kick off with a 13.4km Team Time Trial in Torrevieja on Saturday and run until the final sprint stage in Madrid on September 15.
Along the way there are six flat stages, a 36.2km Individual Time Trial, three lumpy stages, and nine mountain stages – eight of which feature summit finishes.
Aru, who won the Vuelta in 2015, is relishing the prospect of returning to Spain after bad luck, injury and surgery has curtailed his last twelve months.
The Italian said: “As always, the Vuelta a Espana represents an important and stimulating challenge, both in terms of the route and the quality of the start list.
“I’m excited and ready to race, especially since the operation I had four months ago. The goal is to compete at high level but also to be consistent.”
Gaviria said: “I am happy to make my debut in an important race like the Vuelta, the only Grand Tour I have never participated in. There aren’t many stages for the sprinters, and we’ll have to take our chances when we can – this is what makes the Vuelta even more challenging and stimulating.”
Egan Bernal is still struggling to believe he won the Tour de France.
The 22-year-old became the youngest winner of cycling’s biggest race in 110 years when he took victory ahead of Ineos team-mate and defending champion Geraint Thomas last month.
“To be honest, I don’t really believe it yet,” Bernal said on the Team Ineos website. “I feel the same as I did before the Tour. I think I just need a couple of days at home, staying really calm, and then I’ll start to believe that I have won the Tour. I can’t process it.
“I have won the biggest race, but I’ll still be happy to win a small race. Right now I think that I am the same guy that started the Tour in Belgium one month ago.”
Bernal began the year targeting the Giro d’Italia and showed his excellent form with victory in Paris-Nice in March.
He suffered a broken collarbone in a training crash which ended his Giro hopes, but immediately turned his attention to the Tour and was elevated to co-leader alongside Thomas after June’s Tour de Suisse – in which Thomas crashed out and Bernal went on to take overall victory.
Bernal had only raced the Tour once before – finishing 15th last year while helping Thomas to victory – but despite his youth he never seemed fazed by the spotlight which came with co-leadership of a team which has now won seven of the last eight editions.
“Maybe the key to winning the Tour is just trying to enjoy it,” Bernal said. “During the Tour, the media talk about pressure, pressure, pressure, but if I’d started to think about that, maybe I wouldn’t have ridden the same.
“But throughout the Tour I knew I had prepared in the best way I could. What could I do then? Just enjoy it and ride as fast as I could.
“I knew I would do my best so I would have been happy with any result – either winning the Tour or helping G win. In the end I just knew I needed to go full gas, enjoy the race, and stay calm.”
In a Tour which will be remembered for Julian Alaphilippe’s improbable 14-day spell in the yellow jersey, Bernal did not take the lead until a weather-shortened stage 19 when his attack on the Col de l’Iseran proved decisive.
With the following day’s stage also truncated due to landslides, Bernal had little time to get comfortable in yellow and was still trying to get his head around it as he stood on the podium in Paris.
“It was just amazing,” he said. “I almost cried on the podium. When I was really young, I saw (Alberto) Contador and the big battles with (Andy) Schleck, then guys like (Sir Bradley) Wiggins and (Chris) Froomey.
“I saw them on the TV. And wow, I couldn’t imagine that one day I would be there. On the podium I was thinking of them. It was just amazing because my Dad and my girlfriend were there. It was a special moment.”
Provided by Press Association Sport