UAE Team Emirates have confirmed that Neil Stephens will join fellow Australian Allan Peiper as a directeur sportif for 2019, giving the WorldTour team more ‘international experience’ as it tries to make up for a lacklustre 2018.
Peiper confirmed he would join the WorldTour team on Wednesday morning via Australian website Ride Media. The team confirmed his arrival to Cyclingnews and later announced the arrival of Stephens.
“UAE Team Emirates has strengthened its technical staff and in 2019 will be able to rely on the professional skills of Allan Peiper and Neil Stephens. The impressive international experience of these two Australian Sports Directors will contribute significantly to the team,” the team said in a brief statement.
Peiper and Stephens have already started working with the team as they confirm race programmes and major goals for the 2019 season at a staff get together at the team service course in northern Italy.
French directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit recently left UAE Team Emirates to work with Groupama-FDJ but it is unclear if there have been other staff changes at the team. Matxin Fernandez is described as team manager on the team’s website, while Giuseppe Saronni is general manager. Carlo Saronni is chief operating officer and Mauro Gianetti is a member of the board, playing a key role in securing sponsorship.
UAE Team Emirates won just 12 races in 2018, with Fabio Aru struggling to make an impact in stage races and Grand Tours throughout the season. Dan Martin and Alexander Kristoff won stages at the Tour de France but both pushed for changes in the way the team was run.
The arrival of the Peiper and Stephens indicate that the team has listened to its team leaders. Despite its Italian origins, UAE Team Emirates has taken a more global approach in 2018, making English its first language. Fabio Aru revealed to La Gazzetta dello Sport that he has started to study English and French this winter as he prepares to get his career back on track in 2019.
Peiper is likely to work with Dan Martin, while Stephens’ Spanish skills could mean he works with new lead sprinter Fernando Gaviria, who left Quick-Step Floors to sign a three-year contract with UAE Team Emirates.
The team has also signed Sergio Henao from Team Sky and talented young riders Rui and Ivo Oliviera, and Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen from Hagens Berman – Axeon. Ben Swift, Darwin Atapuma and Filippo Ganna have moved on, with Alexander Kristoff leading the cobbled Classics squad despite questions around his sprint role after Gaviria’s late arrival.
“UAE has ticked all the boxes. It’s a very professional outfit and a great environment for riders to develop. I’m excited about the prospect of working with a rider like Dan Martin who has become a genuine GC contender in recent years,” Peiper told Ride Media.
Stephens raced as professional between 1985 and 1998, his career ending after being caught up in the Festina Affair at the Tour de France. He claimed that while he used EPO, he did not do so knowingly, believing instead that he was being injected with vitamin supplements.
Stephens was one of the founding staff members of the GreenEdge set-up and often directed the team in Spanish races after settling in the Basque Country following his professional career. He quit the Australian team after eight seasons as a directeur sportif, citing differences in philosophy.
“All good things must come to an end and in my case, it is time to look for new stimulation. Over the last eight years, my family and I have enjoyed being part of the GreenEdge group and I do not have anything negative to say,” Stephens said in a statement in early September.