The dramatic-looking Louvre Abu Dhabi provided the backdrop for the team presentation; pre-race press conference and photo shoot ahead of the inaugural UAE Tour. The seven-day WorldTour race starts on Sunday with 16km team time trial with two mountain finishes expected to decide the overall winner.
Saturday was an unusually grey day in the gulf but it was brightened up by a star-studded peloton. The riders had arrived on Thursday and Friday ahead of the opening stage on Sunday afternoon and shook off the jet lag by training for the team time trial. One rider that wasn't at the team presentation was Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale), who crashed in training on Saturday morning and broke his wrist.
The so-called top riders got to visit the new Louvre museum and then posed for photographs with the winner's 24ct gold-plated heptagon trophy. They also faced questions from local and international media, including Cyclingnews, before attending the team presentation.
The local squad UAE Team Emirates were in hot demand, particularly their lead rider Fernando Gaviria, who the team hopes will deliver them plenty of success over the coming week. Gaviria will have some serious back up in Alexander Kristoff, who appears in good form despite crashing hard on the final stage of the Tour of Oman, while Dan Martin is their overall contender.
There is a strong list of sprinters that will be hoping to deny Gaviria and Kristoff over the coming week with Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Elia Viviani and Sam Bennett all in the UAE.
The new golden heptagon trophy, seven sided to denote the seven Emirates, was also on show and will be awarded to the overall winner in a week’s time. Leading the queue to take that trophy back in their suitcase are Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali and Tom Dumoulin, the latter two who are making their season debut at the event.
Though it has been unseasonably cool in the UAE in recent days, the weather is expected to pick up as the race progresses with temperatures expected to be around 30 degrees for the peloton.
The race will start with a team time trial on Sunday afternoon before the sprinters get their turn on Monday. The middle part of the race will be for the overall contenders with hilltop and summit finishes at Jebel Hafeet, Hatta Dam, and Jebel Jais, on stages 3, 4 and 6 respectively, set to decide the overall winner.
Cyclingnews will have live coverage of each stage plus news and interviews from Sadhbh O'Shea in the UAE.