Abu Dhabi Tour: Mark Cavendish excited to return to wide open cycling race this year
British rider, who has enjoyed some success in the capital, cannot wait as one more stage has been added to fourth iteration
Mark Cavendish has made the Abu Dhabi Tour his launchpad for the 2018 season.
The Dimension Data sprinter, who is the ambassador of the February 21-25 race, is confident of a good showing in an event in which he has already enjoyed some success over the past two seasons.
Cavendish, 32, wore the Red Jersey - given to the winner of the General Classification by Time - at the end of Stages 1 and 2 last year. He also won the Green Jersey - given to the rider who wins the General Classification by Points - two years in a row.
“Abu Dhabi is a very special place for me, and in certain terms a second home for me and for my family, too,” the Briton said at the ceremony to unveil the race route and jerseys at the Four Seasons Hotel in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
“I hope to repeat the success that I already had in 2017, and to be on the final podium again.”
As was the case last year, the peloton will ride in the desert, among the oasis, by the sea, on the islands, around the landmarks of Abu Dhabi and in the mountains for a total length of 686.8 kilometres.
The first three stages of the race are dedicated to the sprinters, one to time-trial specialists and the all-rounders, and one to climbers.
The fourth iteration of the tour, though, has been extended to five days with the introduction of an 11.8km "Sprint Stage" to be held on Al Maryah Island on the penultimate day of the race.
“The stages are difficult but pretty spectacular when it comes to views,” Cavendish said. “The first three stages are good for me. It’s nice to see the introduction of time trial making things more open.
“There won’t be two or three guys vying for the title, but more riders will have a chance. It will be a nice finish to the whole race at the top of the mountain" at Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain.
Cavendish's race challengers include former Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru, who is making his debut for the UAE Team Emirates after joining them on a three-year deal late last year.
The 27-year-old Italian will join last year's winner Rui Costa in an event that has drawn the cream of the cycling world. The tour has drawn 17 UCI World Teams and three UCI Professional Continental Teams with each outfit consisting of seven riders.
Early entries include Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, the Giro d’Italia winner from Team Sunweb, Alejandro Valverde of Movistar Team, Elia Viviani of Quick-Step Floors, Caleb Ewan of Mitchelton-Scott, as well as Team Katusha-Alpecin’s Marcel Kittel and Ilnur Zakarin.
Commenting on the 2018 tour stages, Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “We’re working to make the race more appealing to fans and riders.
“This upgrade represents a unique opportunity to make the challenge for the overall standings stronger and not only related to the mountain stage.
“In addition, we can better explore our territory and promote the country worldwide as a perfect destination for cycle tourists."
Updated: January 23, 2018 07:02 PM