Meintjes, Swift and Ulissi give UAE Emirates multiple options at Tour de France

British sprinter out to enjoy his freedom in first week

UAE Team Emirates will pursue stages victories and target the overall classification of the Tour de France with Louis Meintjes, Ben Swift and Diego Ulissi giving the Arabian team three different options for success.

They will be supported by Darwin Atapuma of Colombia, Kristijan Durasek of Croatia, Vegard Stake Laengen of Norway and Italians Matteo Bono, Marco Marcato and Manuele Mori, giving them a mix of youth and experience. 

The UAE and Emirates stepped in to save the team from folding last winter and are hoping for success in their debut Tour de France.

Meintjes turned 25 in February and will be eligible for the best young rider competition for a final time at the Tour de France. He will battle with Simon Yates (Orica-Scott), Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) for the coveted white jersey but the South African's consistency and Tour de France experience perhaps gives him an edge. He has already ridden five Grand Tours and was eighth overall in 2016.

"Last year's result motivates me to try and go for some more in the GC. I hope that there will be no problems in the first week, then it will be great to have on the mountains the same feelings I had in the Critérium du Dauphiné," Meintjes said when UAE Team Emirates confirmed its line-up.

"Coming out of the Dauphiné, I feel quite good. I went on the attack on the second last stage to test the form and everything went right. The race has gone a long way in giving me the confidence for the next few weeks ahead," he explained to the In the Bunch website in South Africa.

Meintjes again promised to ride intelligently, in the hope of a consistent performance and a good overall result. He may not be seen on the attack but hopes to limit his losses on every mountain finish and so rise through the general classification before Paris.

"I think I need to race smart and to my strengths, so it will depend on the race situation if I need to be more aggressive or not," he explained.

"I don't feel a better result is always strictly connected to a more aggressive attitude. An example is Tom Dumoulin. He won the Giro d'Italia by managing his energies and racing in a smart way, especially in the stages where he needed to limit his losses to the strong climbers."

Swift and Ulissi to be aggressive

Swift and Ulissi will be expected to be far more aggressive. Swift will target the many early sprint stages and could even be a contender for the green points jersey, while Ulissi has the climbing strength to go on the attack on the rolling stages.

"This year at the Tour de France I'll have a new experience, because I'll have the freedom of taking my opportunities. In the past, I worked for the team (Team Sky). Now I'm happy that the team entrusted me to try to be as competitive as possible in the stages that suit me most," Swift explained.

Ulissi has won six stages at the Giro d'Italia but will make his Tour de France debut at the age of 27, after eight years as a professional. He finished second behind Fabio Aru at the tough Italian national championships on Sunday.

"I strongly wanted to face this new challenge, in search of some new motivation and in order to understand just how great the Tour de France is," he said.

"I'll be in France with the goal of trying to fight for a stage victory. However I'm aware that this is one of the most difficult tasks because everybody will go for this target."

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