Alexander Kristoff has said he "can't wait to start my season" at the Dubai Tour as the Norwegian European Road Race champion prepares to make his debut for UAE Team Emirates.
Starting on Tuesday and ending on Saturday, the Dubai Tour is the first of three races for UAE Team Emirates in the region. It will be followed by the Tour of Oman on February 13-18 and concludes with the Abu Dhabi Tour from February 21-25.
“I can’t wait to start my season with the new team," said Kristoff, who joined UAE Team Emirates after five years with Team Katusha. "This will be my first-time racing in the Dubai Tour and I really like the idea, because when I went to the United Arab Emirates for holidays, I discovered what a wonderful place it is.
"It’s going to be a very competitive race and there will be a lot of top notch sprinters. It will be a fantastic result if we manage to win a stage as it’s always nice to start off a season on a positive note.”
Joining Kristoff in the UAE Team Emirates line-up will be former Under-23 World Road Race champion Sven Erik Bystrom, the UAE's No 1 cyclist Yousif Mirza, Moroccan rider Anass Ait El Abdia and Italian trio Matteo Bono, Simone Consonni and Filippo Ganna.
The Dubai Tour will be the second race of the season for Mirza, who competed alongside Ganna at the Vuelta a San Juan last month.
“I am highly motivated and I really want to give it my all on home soil," Mirza said. "It’s an honour to be able to cycle in front of my home fans and the support they provide is truly amazing.
"I hope I can help inspire the next generation of Emirati cyclists with an exciting ride this year. Last year I made a break in the second stage and we’ll see if I will be able to make the most of my skills as an attacker in this edition, too.”
The 2018 Dubai Tour will see 16 professional teams compete over five stages, all of which will start at SkyDive Dubai in Dubai Marina. The race, which totals 841 kilometres, is largely sprinter friendly with four of the five stages taking place across flat terrain. Stage 4, from SkyDive Dubai to Hatta Dam, is the only hilly stage.
Other notable riders taking part in the Dubai Tour include Team Dimension Data sprinter Mark Cavendish, Bahrain Merida's Vincenzo Nibali, Quick-Step Floors sprinter Elia Viviani, and two-time defending champion Marcel Kittel of Team Katusha.