The team, which is racing this week in the Middle East at the Abu Dhabi Tour, will become UAE Team Emirates immediately and wear red, green, white and black – the United Arab Emirates colours.
>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
“This is an opportunity for us. We have seen tremendous growth with the bicycle race here,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, divisional vice president commercial operations for Emirates.
“In the UAE, I think every household has a bicycle. We feel that this is the best team to be associated with and this is a huge opportunity presented as a country in the world.”
“I like to see the team develop the UAE market and be an ambassador for the UAE as well as Emirates Airlines.”
Swift joined the team over the winter from Team Sky. The team also includes stars Rui Costa and Louis Meintjes, eighth in the Tour de France.
Giuseppe Saronni’s Lampre-Merida team was due to become Chinese with sponsorship group TJ Sport. At the last minute, the deal fell through and through sponsor liaison Mauro Gianetti he landed an Abu Dhabi backer. The team debuted with Bahrain-Merida as the Middle East’s first two professional teams.
UAE-Abu Dhabi’s budget was reportedly €10 million, relatively low for a WorldTour team. That could now change. The airline company, flying over 51 million in 2016, had a profit of AED 8.3 billion or £1.8 billion.
Emirates already sponsors football teams Real Madrid, Benfica and AC Milan.
“This is a proud moment for me to have a new team like this and represent the whole country, the UAE,” said Swift.
“Milan-San Remo will be a big target for me and also throughout the year, I want to do this jersey proud.”
“The goals again are in the grand tours for me this year,” Meintjes explained. “I would like to repeat what I did last year. Overall, it’s a team sport and then he needs to perform on a whole.”
The team rides on Colnago bikes equipped with Campagnolo drivetrain.
“This is a special moment for me since its the first time I’m involved with the UAE,” said Ernesto Colnago. “I’m proud to give them my bicycles.”