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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is. - Francis Bacon

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Teams headed to Abu Dhabi Tour

Here's the Quick-Step Floors update:

Held annually since 2015, the Abu Dhabi Tour puts on the table this year, for the first time since its inception, a route comprising five stages, three of which – Madinat Zayed, Yas Beach and Big Flag – are likely to go to the sprinters. The other two will be the race's first ever individual time trial, covering a 11.8km-long course with no technical difficulties on the Al Maryah Island, and the mountain top finish of Jebel Hafeet (10.8 kilometers, 6.6%)

Quick-Step Floors – who so far this season has amassed ten UCI victories – will come to the start with Julian Alaphilippe, neo-pros Alvaro Hodeg and James Knox, Enric Mas, Michael Mørkøv, Fabio Sabatini and Elia Viviani. Our squad will not be short of options at the Middle East race, where we took a stage victory and the best young rider jersey last year, as sports director Rik van Slycke pointed out.

"Elia has shown great form coming into the first season with the team, scoring several wins and notching up a few podium spots. Fabio and Michael, who played important roles in his early success for the team, will join him in Abu Dhabi alongside Alvaro, who is coming in from a solid start to the season in South America. With these guys around Elia, we hope he can be a contender for the first three stages.

"For the final one, we'll have two cards in Julian and Enric, while James will make his pro debut and ease into the team after a small knee injury prevented him from racing in Spain, at Murcia and Almeria."

Winner of four races in 2018 and one of the most in-form riders of the peloton in this start of the season, Elia Viviani hopes to continue his impressive run at the Abu Dhabi Tour, a race where he took two stage victories in the past: "After the Dubai Tour I spent a nice week at home, recovered and continued with my training. I came out of that race in a good shape, with confidence and a super feeling with my teammates, and now I'll look to take all these factors into the Abu Dhabi Tour. Unlike Dubai, I'll not race for the GC, but the goal is to fight for a stage win and help the climbers on our team as much as I can on the final day."

Elia Viviani

Elia Viviani wins stage five of this year's Dubai Tour.

After rolling out his season in South America with a beautiful stage victory at the inaugural Colombia Oro y Paz, Julian Alaphilippe will return to the race which he finished in fifth place overall last year, when he also conquered the best young rider jersey: "I am happy to go there for the second time. We have a strong team and will try to get some solid results. I did a good GC last year and it would be nice to repeat that, although it will be different now with the ITT. But I am motivated and will do my best."

Rik van Slycke had the final word on the five-day event: "It is the only World Tour race in the Middle East and a target for many of the big sprinters, so nothing will come easy for our team. We have a tough mountain finish on stage five, but also the first three days could turn out to be tricky, because we are heading into the desert and if we have wind there, as in the past, things will become very interesting. The individual time trial on stage four is long enough to be decisive for the race too, because as we saw last year, the time gaps on the climb – despite being steep in the beginning – were minimal, so if you have an advantage of 20 seconds from the time trial, that can make the difference at the end."

Team Sunweb is going to Abu Dhabi and other places as well. Here's the race preview the team sent me:

RACE PREVIEW: FEBRUARY 19 - 27

ABU DHABI TOUR (WT)
Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED) said: "The Abu Dhabi Tour will see Wilco and Tom make their season debut. We line up with a strong team to support our GC ambitions with Tom, as well as our goal for stage results with Phil. The first three stages typically end with a sprint; on these stages we need to stay sharp on the crosswind sections and keep both Tom and Phil in a good position going into the final. The decisive stages for the GC will be stage 4; the 15 kilometre time trial and stage 5 with the final climb up Jebel Hefeet. With the hard stages coming at the end of the race and to avoid unnecessary time loss on the flat stages, we need to remain completely focused from start to finish." 

RACE: Abu Dhabi Tour (WT)

DATE: 21-25/02/2018

COACH: Aike Visbeek (NED) 

LINE-UP:
Nikias Arndt (GER)
Phil Bauhaus (GER)
Tom Dumoulin (NED)
Johannes Fröhlinger (GER)
Lennard Hofstede (NED)
Wilco Kelderman (NED)
Mike Teunissen (NED) 

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin (shown at the 2017 Giro d'Italia) will be racing in Abu Dhabi.

OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD (WT)
Team Sunweb coach Arthur van Dongen (NED) said: "We want to ride aggressively at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and show ourselves in the break of the day. Our goal is to have Edward, Michael and Søren positioned well going into the final. For Michael, Omloop will be his first race of the season following a very good training block with several team training camps, including one at altitude. With a few additions to the final we expect the race to be harder and aim to play a role with these three puncheurs. We have a really strong team to support our ambitions with Jai, Tom, Martijn and road captain Roy fresh out of other races in a good shape to help us achieve our goal." 

RACE: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (WT)

DATE: 24/02/2018

COACH: Arthur van Dongen (NED) 

LINE-UP
Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN)
Roy Curvers (NED)
Jai Hindley (AUS)
Michael Matthews (AUS)
Tom Stamsnijder (NED)
Edward Theuns (BEL)
Martijn Tusveld (NED) 

OMLOOP HET NIEUWSBLAD WE (UCI 1.1)
Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED) said: "We line up super motivated for the first classic of the season. With Lucinda, who won last year's edition, Ellen, who won the race in the past and Coryn who showed her potential for the classics with her Tour of Flanders win last year, we have a variety of different cards to play. I am confident that we will be competing for a good result with these three riders and it's good to have such options depending on the race situation. As defending champions we have a strong line-up of supporting riders with Juliette, Floortje and Julia as team captain. The new final will make the race different than last year; with the Muur and the Bosberg combination in the final we expect to see a small group going into the last kilometres." 

RACE: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad WE (UCI 1.1)

DATE: 24/02/2018

COACH: Hans Timmermans (NED) 

LINE-UP
Lucinda Brand (NED)
Ellen van Dijk (NED)
Juliette Labous (FRA)
Floortje Mackaij (NED)
Coryn Rivera (USA)
Julia Soek (NED) 

OMLOOP VAN HET HAGELAND (UCI 1.1)
Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED) said: "We start with a young team for this race, with Pernille and Ruth both motivated for a strong performance whilst making their racing debut in the team's colours. The parcours are similar to last year and we can expect how the final plays out to also remain the same. We will ride aggressively and also hope for difficult weather, which will make the race situation much harder. With Ellen we have a rider that already showed before that she can win races like this one so we will ride to support this goal." 

RACE: Omloop van het Hageland (UCI 1.1)

DATE: 25/02/2018

COACH: Hans Timmermans (NED) 

And UAE-Team Emirates sent me their Abu Dhabi roster:

It will be a first-class UAE Team Emirates roster, including Italian Champion Fabio Aru in his 2018 debut, on the start line of the Abu Dhabi Tour this February 21 to 25.

“I’m honoured and at the same time, very motivated to start my new professional adventure at the Abu Dhabi Tour,” said Fabio Aru. “It’s the team’s home race, the home race for our sponsors, and I can’t hide my desire to start on the right foot. We are going to be there with a very strong team and I’m sure that we won’t miss out on the chance to make new fans.”

The race will unfold over five stages, with the last and likely decisive day to Jabel Hafeet. The summit finish should definitively re-sort the classification, just like it did in 2017 when Portuguese Rui Costa shot ahead for the stage and overall classification.

“I have good memories from the Abu Dhabi Tour last year,” said Rui Costa. “For us it was very important to win, and to do so ahead of all of our sponsors and managers was a huge satisfaction. This year I hope to be competitive like I was in 2017, even if I had a slight health setback when I returned from Australia. In any case, we will be a strong team and we will try to put on a good show, getting the best possible results.”

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff (shown winning a stage in the 2017 Tour of Oman) is headed to Abu Dhabi.

Team roster: Aru Fabio (Italy), Bystrøm Sven Erik (Norway), Costa Rui (Portugal), Ferrari Roberto (Italy), Mori Manuele (Italy), Ulissi Diego  (Italy), Kristoff Alexander (Norway).

Sports Directors: Matxin Joxean Fernández (Spain), Marzano Marco (Italy).

As the UAE’s first professional cycling team, UAE Team Emirates are looking to encourage the next generation of UAE cyclists to get on two-wheels and promote the health benefits of cycling. The team’s participation at Abu Dhabi Tour gives the region’s community the opportunity to come together and support world-class athletes as they aim to become one of the top cycling teams on the tour.

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