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UAE Tour: Tour de France champion Pogacar to lead UAE Team Emirates challenge

UAE Tour: Tour de France champion Pogacar to lead UAE Team Emirates challenge

Dubai: The UAE Team Emirates are eyeing a decisive finish in their home race after naming their squad of seven riders for next week’s UAE Tour.

Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar will be leading the UAE Team Emirates’s goal of winning their home race that begins in the UAE Capital on February 21.

The 22-year-old Pogacar, who won the fifth stage of UAE Tour in 2020 before the race was called off following the first cases of coronavirus detected in a couple of staff members belonging to a team. The Higher Organising Committee had to cancel the last two stages of the 2020 UAE Tour.

However, Pogacar had done enough to stay within striking distance of overall champion Adam Yates from the Mitchelton-Scott team. Yates held on to the Red Jersey sponsored by Emirates as the one in the lead in the General Classification by time, while UAE Team Emirates’ rider Pogacar took the Nakheel-sponsored White Jersey for being the Best Young Rider.

Pogacar maintained the momentum to come up with an awesome time trial that saw him steal a ride on the Jumbo-Visma train and score vital bonus seconds where it counted most, including a daring raid in the Pyrénées, and the historic Stage 20 time trial that secured him the crown as the 2020 Tour de France champion.

It’s my first race of the season so I’m excited to get started and get back competing again. My preparation has gone really well. We’ve been on Mount Teide training at altitude over the past few weeks with a good group and done a quality block of training with a great atmosphere

- Tadej Pogacar

This year’s UAE Tour starting on Sunday will consist of seven days racing including four flat stages, two mountain stages and an individual time trial.

“It’s my first race of the season so I’m excited to get started and get back competing again. My preparation has gone really well. We’ve been on Mount Teide training at altitude over the past few weeks with a good group and done a quality block of training with a great atmosphere,” Pogacar told the team’s official website.

“I was thrilled to get the stage win here last year. Obviously it will be a bit of a different atmosphere this year but we are all really motivated to race and give our all in the UAE colours,” he added.

“Between holidays and training camps, I have spent a lot of time in the UAE lately and I can say that the UAE Tour is a race I would really love to win someday. If it can be this year then that would be great,” the Slovenian insisted.

The team goes into the race with a dynamic squad who will focus on stage victories, while also eyeing up the overall title Tadej Pogačar, and with Fernando Gaviria to lead the line in the sprints.

Others in the fray will be countryman Jan Polanc, Italian Davide Formolo, Danish rider Mikkel Berg, Poland’s Rafa Majka and Argentinean rider Maximiliano Richeze.

Team Manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez will be following the riders along with Sports Directors Andrej Hauptman and Marco Marzano.

Team manager Fernandez was hopeful of a positive result this year. “Our aim will be to pick up where we left the race last year… with a victory. Whether it’s the GC or a stage or both, we are searching for that first win of 2021 and to achieve it on home soil would be fantastic,” he related.

“We’re on home territory and we know that all eyes will be on us but it’s something we’ll use as further motivation. Pogacar will be our leader but the reality is it’s a squad that can adapt to any situation and we will have different cards to play, especially on the climbs,” he added.

SQUAD

Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia); Davide Formolo (Italy); Jan Polanc (Slovenia); Mikkel Bjerg (Denmark); Rafal Majka (Poland); Fernando Gaviria (Colombia); Maximiliano Richeze (Argentina).