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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Defending champion Marcel Kittel has a new team but same goal - to win the Dubai Tour

The opening Nakheel Stage of the race gets under way from Skydive Dubai and ends at Palm Jumeira, covering 167 kilometres

From left: Nacer Bouhanni, French rider for Cofidis, Mark Cavendish, British rider for Dimension Data, John Degenkolb, German rider for Trek Factory Racing, Marcel Kittel, German rider for Giant–Alpecin, Alexander Kristoff, Norwegian rider for UAE Team Emirates, and Elia Viviani, Italian rider for Quick-Step floors pose for a group picture in front of the Dubai Frame. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
From left: Nacer Bouhanni, French rider for Cofidis, Mark Cavendish, British rider for Dimension Data, John Degenkolb, German rider for Trek Factory Racing, Marcel Kittel, German rider for Giant–Alpecin, Alexander Kristoff, Norwegian rider for UAE Team Emirates, and Elia Viviani, Italian rider for Quick-Step floors pose for a group picture in front of the Dubai Frame. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Another year and another team for Marcel Kittel, but his goal remains the same. The German, who now races in the colours of Team Katusha–Alpecin, will complete a hat-trick of Dubai Tour wins if he is crowned champion on Saturday.

“Of course to win will be our goal,” said Kittel at the pre-race conference at Westin Dubai in Mina Seyahi on Monday.

“I came here like every year for my first race of the season. I’ve changed team but my motivation is the same.

“We’ll try our best to go for the victory, but we’ll take it day by day, as I’m not yet concentrated on scoring the hat-trick."

As a Quick-Step Floors rider, Kittel won the Dubai Tour in 2016 and then again last year after a sand storm forced organisers to cancel the key stage up to the edge of Hatta Dam which normally decides the overall winner.

The German, 29, is one of the most experienced riders in the Dubai Tour having participated in three of the four previous editions.

“The thing is that it’s different this year as I have changed teams,” he said. “It is also the start of the new season for me and it is my first race. We have been working well and the morale is good."

He added: “In Dubai, we have a nice chance to race together and also try ourselves how we work as a team together in racing conditions. That’s very exciting for me."

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Elia Viviani, the Olympic champion, has filled the void at Quick-Step Floors left by Kittel's move and is sure to be one of his main rivals. The Italian, 28, arrives in Dubai with a race already under his belt.

“I’ve had a really good winter with my new team and I’ve already got a stage win" at the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia, he said.

“It is a new team, new teammates and new motivation. I enjoy racing for Quick-Step Floors.

“This team is very focused on sprinting. It makes a difference for me. Stage 1 has a really nice finish – I’ve won here two times – positioning before the final straight is crucial, depending on the crosswinds.”

Mark Cavendish, winner of the 2015 Dubai Tour, will be hoping for an improved performance on his disappointing race last year.

“When I won the overall classification in 2015 it was the first Dubai Tour without a time trial,” said the British rider of Team Dimension Data.

“I was with Quick Step at the time. I had a great lead out train and I got through the hard stage to Hatta Dam. The amount of sprints here makes it very attractive. I spend a lot of time in Dubai, so it’s nice to be back.”

Alexander Kristoff making his debut for the UAE Team Emirates is confident of a good result for his new team.

“For sure, the race is important for the team,” he said. “It’s is our home ground but the guys sitting next to me are focused on trying to win and it won’t be easy against them. It will be tough competition.”

The opening Nakheel Stage of the race gets under way from Skydive Dubai and ends at Palm Jumeira, covering 167 kilometres.