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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Giro d'Italia 2018: Fabio Aru among five Italians in UAE Team Emirates for race debut

UAE Team Emirates well prepared to compete in a Grand Tour cycling race for first time

UAE Team Emirates rider Fabio Aru is leading eight teammates, including five Italians, at the Giro d'Italia. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
UAE Team Emirates rider Fabio Aru is leading eight teammates, including five Italians, at the Giro d'Italia. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Come Friday, Fabio Aru spearheads UAE Team Emirates on their debut at the Giro d’Italia cycling race.

This is the first time the team are competing in a Grand Tour, which refers to one of the three major European cycling stage-races - Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. The 22-day race is an integral part of the UCI World Tour season.

The eight-member UAE team consist of as many as five Italians, including Aru, six-time Giro stage winner Diego Ulissi, Valerio Conti, Marco Marcato and Manuele Mori. Other riders include Colombian climber Darwin Atapuma, Jan Polanc of Slovenia, and Norway's Vegard Stake Laengen.

The team's composition is for a reason, according to the team's general manager Giuseppe Saronni.

“Our Italian riders give this roster a strong local flavour, which honours the Giro d’Italia," said Saronni, himself a former cyclist from Italy. "We have the national champion in the tricolour jersey - Fabio Aru. Fabio is going to the Giro d’Italia with a huge desire to make an impact.

"He will be joined by a group of riders who share the same feeling and will be able to support him in every scenario," he added. "The three non-Italians - Atapuma, Laengen and Polanc - have shown their love for this race, and their ability to contribute enthusiastically to the team."

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Saronni, who won 193 races during a career spanning 12 years from 1977 to 1989, also highlighted the win record of some of the team members.

“These riders know about success in this race, with six stage wins by Ulissi, two by Polanc and three by Aru, who has been on the podium twice,” Saronni, 60, said.

The Grand Tour will start outside of Europe for the first time in its history. The peloton will head from Israel to Italy after the first three stages.

Once in Italy, there will be plenty of climbing with the first summit finish atop Mount Etna in Stage 6.

All in all, this year's route is expected to pose a stiff challenge to the general classification contenders with eight summit finishes, including two major mountain days across Monte Zoncolan and Colle delle Finestre.