Chris Froome will face his ‘first real climbing test’ at the inaugural UAE Tour, according to the Team Sky sports director for the race.
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The Brit lines up at the Middle East stage race after riding in support of his team at the Tour Colombia.
Froome didn’t feature as a contender in South America, but Sky DS for the UAE Tour Matteo Tosatto said the race will be an important step for the 33-year-old.
Tosatto told Cycling Weekly: “It’s really important for Chris, possibly the first real climbing test for him.
“Chris is very happy for the UAE because it’s a different format for the race from the last two or three years.
“It’s a nice race. The weather is better for Chris and for the team the first stage, the TTT, is perfect.
“The plan is for Chris to start as the leader and wait day by day, but it’s an important first stage. We’ll look to do a good performance.”
Sky are sending a team of seven powerhouses to the only WorldTour race in the Middle East to support Froome.
Michał Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon, Salvatore Puccio, Pavel Sivakov, Kristoffer Halvorsen and Michał Gołas will all be riding.
Froome finished 91st overall in Colombia, but Sky played a major role in the race regardless.
New signing Ivan Sosa finished second overall and second on the final stage behind Nario Quintana (Movistar), with Colombian compatriot Egan Bernal in fourth on GC.
The new format of the UAE Tour, an amalgamation of the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours, has attracted an outstanding field of Grand Tour contenders and sprinters.
An opening team time trial in the UAE, will appeal to outfits looking ahead to the TTT at the Tour de France, while the two mountain finishes will be an appealing test for climbers in the early season.
Froome will be racing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Tosatto added: “Looking at the teams at the start, they’re big names. It’s a big race. It’s very important for the team.
“The big names for the race are some of the best. It makes it more of a show, more spectacular.
“All teams will be going for the win.”
The UAE Tour starts on Sunday, February 24 and finishes on Saturday, March 2.