'This is the biggest race in the world. The event where you get all the best cyclists, the best sprinters
Dan Martin and Alexander Kristoff head UAE Team Emirates line-up for 2018 Tour de France
UAE Team Emirates on Sunday announced its line-up to tackle the world's best riders at cycling’s most prestigious race.
The team to carry the UAE flag at the Tour de France will be fronted by General Classification (GC) contender Dan Martin, with European champion Alexander Kristoff the team's big hope in the sprint stages. The duo will rely on the support of teammates Darwin Atapuma, Marco Marcato, Kristijan Durasek, Oliviero Troia, Roberto Ferrari and Rory Sutherland for the July 7-29 event.
In Irishman Martin, UAE Team Emirates has one of the most accomplished Tour riders. In 2017, he secured eight top-10 finishes and finished sixth in the overall GC – despite competing in 12 stages with a broken vertebrae. Martin will also be hoping to break a trend of second-place stage finishes as he looks to earn his first stage victory in La Grande Boucle since 2013.
Martin and his teammates are guided by one of cycling’s most experienced sports directors, Matxin Joxean Fernandez, who will be supported by Philippe Mauduit and Simone Pedrazzini.
Ahead of Thursday's Grande Depart from Pays de la Loire in western France, Martin said: “Since I signed for UAE Team Emirates the big goal has been the Tour de France. I plan to take the race day by day, stage by stage and try to achieve the best results possible. It’s really a race of two halves and the first nine days will be very tricky bringing different challenges each day, but I’m confident we have a great team that can get me to the mountains in a good position to have a bit of fun."
Teammate Alexander Kristoff added: “This is the biggest race in the world. The event where you get all the best cyclists, the best sprinters. I am going to France determined to get the best result possible and, if possible, a stage victory.”
The opening flat stages of this year’s tour will begin in the north-west of France, and are designed to end with thrilling sprint finishes. However, given riders proximity to the Atlantic coast, strong crosswinds could have a significant impact on the overall standings and the outcome in Stages 1, 2, 4 and 5.
As the peloton moves inland, the classics riders will be in familiar territory, particularly on Stage 9 from Arras to Roubaix. Stage 10 will be the first real test for the climbers, as the route from Annecy to La Grand Bornand features five categorised climbs, the hardest coming just 57km into the race. From here on in, the climbs come thick and fast. Stage 11 will see the riders tackle the first summit finish, whilst Stage 12 harbours the infamous Alpe d’Huez – a 13.8km hors category (HC) climb with an average gradient of 8.1 per cent. Stages 14 – 16 will be stern tests for the climbers, but they will have to keep some energy in reserve – despite a short 65km route. Stage 17 is practically all uphill and will challenge riders with two Category 1 climbs and a HC summit finish.
Getting some respite on a relatively flat Stage 18, the final day amongst the mountains on Stage 19 will see riders battle no less than six categorised climbs. This stage could be pivotal in the GC standings, with Stage 20 being an Individual Time Trial. As is tradition, the final stage of the Tour de France will take place in Paris, and see riders finish at the iconic Champs-Elysees.