UAE Cycling Tour 2019: Alexander Kristoff and Rui Costa aim to create 'special' memories for home team

UAE Team Emirates riders are hoping to put on a strong showing at inaugural race that gets under way on Sunday

UAE Team Emirates riders step up their preparation for the inaugural UAE Cycling Tour 2019. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates
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Rui Costa hopes to create some special memories at the UAE Cycling Tour 2019 with the Portuguese hoping to lead UAE Team Emirates to victory at their home race.

The inaugural UAE Tour gets under way on Sunday with a Team Time Trial at Al Hudayriat Island in Abu Dhabi before snaking its way through all seven emirates before concluding on Saturday with a sprint stage ending at City Walk in Dubai.

Along with teammates Dan Martin and Diego Ulissi, Costa will be one of the cyclists targeting the General Classification (GC) winner's jersey, and the 32 year old hopes the team can deliver in front of their home fans.

“We are professionals and know how to deal with pressure but it’s a special race for us as it will be our home race and watched by our home fans and bosses,” Costa said.

“I think we have the pressure to do well in this race. We are really motivated for this race. It is always nice to ride where the team is from.

“We are a very strong team and we have improved every year. We are confident to take some good results in this race and can win some strong races in 2019.”

According to Costa the two mountains stages – Jebel Hafeet and Jebel Jais – the third and sixth stages respectively, will provide a good indication of who will emerge as the GC winner.

“A lot can happen between these two stages but I still think the two mountain stages will give us a clear idea how the race is going to pan out,” he said.

Costa, 32, won the Jebel Hafeet stage in 2016 on what was then Abu Dhabi Tour, while Alejandro Valverde, Tanel Kangert and Esteban Chaves are the others in the field who have taken a stage win on the 9.2-kilometre climb in Al Ain.

“Jebel Hafeet is harder and Jebel Jais is longer but the second one will be a crucial point in the GC because of the altitude,” Costa said.

“I know Jebel Hafeet well because I won there. It’s is a bit harder and Jebel Jais is longer and the altitude will make it difficult.

“We have three riders for the GC. It’s me, Dan and Diego. Obviously we want to start well and after the first mountain stage in Jebel Hafeet we’ll see who is in the best shape and try to support him.”

Alexander Kristoff, Costa's teammate, will race with a heavily bandaged left arm and knee after injuries he sustained after a fall racing at the Oman Tour last week.

The deep cut in his arm required seven stitches but the Norwegian insisted on Sunday he is fully recovered and ready to challenge his main rivals.

“The crash was not that bad but I was just unlucky to cut my arm,” Kristoff said.

“I lost a lot of blood but now I’m fine and ready to do a good race here. I don’t think it will affect me very much. I won a stage in Oman and I’m in good shape coming into this race.”

Kristoff hopes to shine on the three sprint stages alongside his Italian teammate Oliviero Troia and the team’s new recruit Fernando Gaviria from Colombia.

“Usually I’m the last man in the sprints,” he said. “Oliviero can put us in a good position and Fernando should stay on my wheel for me to deliver, being faster than the other guys. We’ll try and win some sprint stages, hopefully.

“At the Hatta Dam, maybe, we will do it together and then see how it goes as it is not a straight forward sprint.”

“The race will be a bit harder than before with the new race and many of the best climbers here. The peloton is similar to the Tour de France.”