Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team to Abu Dhabi Tour
The Middle East race – the season's third World Tour event – will take place between 21-25 February.
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."
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."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images