Italian rider Fabio Aru says he is "very motivated" to deliver success for UAE Team Emirates at the Abu Dhabi Tour as the former grand tour champion prepares to make his race debut.
Aru, 27, signed for UAE Team Emirates last October following five years with Astana Pro Team, during which time he won the 2015 Vuelta a Espana. Aru's first assignment for his new team will begin on Wednesday with the Abu Dhabi Tour, the home race for UAE Team Emirates.
"I'm honoured and at the same time, very motivated to start my new professional adventure at the Abu Dhabi Tour," Aru said. "It's the team's home race, the home race for our sponsors, and I can't hide my desire to get off on the right foot.
"We are going to be there with a very strong team and I'm sure that we will help inspire the local community and acquire some new fans."
Aru will be joined in the seven-rider line-up by defending Abu Dhabi Tour champion Rui Costa.
Costa's success in the UAE capital last year ensured a first UCI World Tour win for UAE Team Emirates, and the Portuguese rider is looking to emulate his success from 12 months ago.
"I have good memories from last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour," said Costa, 31, the 2013 road race world champion. "It was very important to win, especially in front of our new sponsors, managers and fans.
"This year I hope to be as competitive as I was in 2017. We will be a strong team and we will try to put on a good show and get the best possible results."
Alongside Aru and Costa will be European road champion Alexander Kristoff. The 30-year-old Norwegian is another new arrival at UAE Team Emirates and has excelled for the team so far, securing a top 10 finish on debut in the Dubai Tour earlier this month before clinching victory on the final stage at the Tour of Oman on Sunday.
Completing the UAE Team Emirates line-up will be Italians Roberto Ferrari, Manuele Mori and Diego Ulissi and Norway's Sven Erik Bystrom.
Starting on Wednesday and concluding on Sunday, the 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour will largely favour the sprinters, with four of the five stages designed to encourage bunched sprint finishes.
Stage 1, the 189-kilometre Al Fahim Stage, will see the riders begin at the Madinat Complex, head out on a long stretch in the desert, past Liwa Oasis, before heading back towards Abu Dhabi and a sprint finish in front of Adnoc Schools.
Thursday's second stage, the 154km Yas Island Stage, will start on Yas Island before the riders head to Al Rahba and Khalifa Port, with a sprint finish set up at Yas Beach.
Stage 3 on Friday, the 133km Nation Towers Stage, is another catered to the sprinters. Starting at Nation Towers, the stage will see the riders navigate the Abu Dhabi Corniche before crossing Yas Island and finish at the Big Flag.
Saturday's fourth stage, the Al Maryah Island Stage, will host the Abu Dhabi Tour's first individual time trial, a 12.6km route starting and ending on Al Maryah Island and taking in Reem Island.
Sunday's final stage moves away from the flat sprinter-friendly course and into the mountains. The 199km Abu Dhabi Airports Stage will conclude with an ascent atop Jebel Hafeet, and success in this stage is expected to play a decisive role in the battle for the general classification title.