The UAE Tour gets underway on Sunday February 20, with Mark Cavendish starting alongside an eclectic group of world-class sprinters all vying to take the first UCI WorldTour points jersey of the season.
Finishing on Saturday February 26, the riders will cover seven stages in seven days in the Emirati country. Four of the stages are flat, providing plenty of opportunities for Cavendish and his fast-finishing counterparts to make their mark.
The UAE Tour race organisers, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, has announced that as well as Mark Cavendish, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers), Dylan Groenewegen (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) will all compete in the race. With 83 Grand Tour stage wins between the six sprinters announced, competition will undoubtedly be fierce.
Cavendish has previously competed twice at the UAE Tour before, in 2019 and 2020, but he failed to win a stage in both attempts. The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl man will no doubt have a point to prove this time around, especially considering the controversy he was embroiled in at the Tour of Oman.
First, the Manxman suffered a fairly heavy crash on the penultimate stage in Oman, and then officials docked the 36-year-old nine points for holding onto a car while returning to the bunch. On the final stage, Cavendish finished sixth after Maximiliano Richeze - who was later disqualified - boxed him out in the final sprint, helping his UAE Team Emirates teammate Fernando Gaviria to take the stage win and green jersey.
Irishman Sam Bennett won twice on his UAE Tour debut last year, while Elia Viviani took the sprinter's green jersey in 2019 after winning a stage that year. Groenewegen has experience of success at the race too, taking stage four in 2020.
Organisers also announced time trial specialist Filippo Ganna will also be riding at the UAE Tour, with the Italian looking to put a disappointing end to his Tour de la Provence race behind him, where he was disqualified for an illegal bike change.
He won the race's 13km ITT on Al Hudayriyat Island, 14 seconds ahead of second-place Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost), who will race in the middle-east again this year.
This year’s race features a 9km individual time trial in the city of Ajman, set to take place on stage three.
Meanwhile, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) had already made it clear he would defend his UAE Tour title for his first competitive appearance this year, with 2020 winner Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) both challenging too.
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