Tadej Pogačar will make his 2021 debut at the UAE Tour, leading his UAE Team Emirates squad.
The Slovenian will start his season at the first men’s WorldTour race of the year, having challenged for the victory and won a stage in the Middle East stage race last year.
Pogačar, winner of the 2020 Tour de France, is confident of his form after a successful winter training campaign and says he would like to win his team’s home race.
The 22-year-old said: “It’s my first race of the season so I’m excited to get started and get back competing again. My preparation has gone really well. We’ve been on Mount Teide training at altitude over the past few weeks with a good group and done a quality block of training with a great atmosphere.
“I was thrilled to get the stage win here last year. Obviously it will be a bit of a different atmosphere this year but we are all really motivated to race and give our all in the UAE colours.
“Between holidays and training camps I have spent a lot of time in the UAE lately and I can say that the UAE Tour is a race I would really love to win someday. If it can be this year then that would be great.”
UAE Team Emirates will also take Fernando Gaviria for the sprints, along with Mikkel Bjerg, Davide Formolo, Rafał Majka, Jan Polanc and Maximiliano Richeze.
Pogačar finished the 2020 UAE Tour in second-place overall, having won the second summit finish on Jabel Hafeet.
Adam Yates (then Mitchelton-Scott), came away with the overall victory as the race was cut short due to a coronavirus outbreak.
This year’s UAE Tour will be the first men’s WorldTour event of the year after the cancellation of the Tour Down Under due to the global pandemic.
The race will feature a selection of star riders, including Adam Yates making his Ineos Grenadiers debut and Chris Froome starting with Israel Start-Up Nation.
UAE Team Emirates manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez said: “Our aim will be to pick up where we left the race last year: with a victory. Whether it’s the GC or a stage or both, we are searching for that first win of 2021 and to achieve it on home soil would be fantastic.
“We’re on home territory and we know that all eyes will be on us but it’s something we’ll use as further motivation. Pogačar will be our leader but the reality is it’s a squad that can adapt to any situation and we will have different cards to play, especially on the climbs.
“Gaviria has a good track record here also and will be our main man for the sprint finishes.”
UAE Team Emirates squad for the UAE Tour 2021
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Davide Formolo (Ita)
Jan Polanc (Slo)
Mikkel Bjerg (Den)
Rafał Majka (Pol)
Fernando Gaviria (Col)
Maximiliano Richeze (Arg)