The UAE Abu Dhabi team has revealed its new colours and ambitions for the future at a presentation in Abu Dhabi.
Rui Costa, Louis Meintjes, Filippo Ganna, Matej Moric, Andrea Guardini and UAE rider Youssef Mirza were at the presentation and showed off the new Champion System black and white jersey, which has a profile of the Grand Mosque and the red, white and green colours of the UAE flag. The team will use red and black Colnago bikes equipped with Campagnolo components.
The team will make its race debut at the People’s Choice Classic criterium on January 15 and then ride the Tour Down Under, which begins a couple of days later on January 17. Britain’s Ben Swift will lead UAE Abu Dhabi along with Ulissi Meintjes. The South African climber confirmed he would again target the Tour de France after finishing eighth overall in 2016. Ulissi and Costa will lead the team in the Giro d’Italia, while Swift targets Milan-San Remo and other sprint finishes.
Costa, the 2013 world champion, is the team captain along with Ulissi and Meintjes.
"As a captain, I’ve got a lot of responsibility. My goal is to do a great Giro d’Italia. I’d already been to Dubai and Oman but waking up this morning in Abu Dhabi I fell in love with this place," Costa said during the presentation.
Andrea Guardini moved from Astana to UAE Abu Dhabi and is hoping to give the team an early success at next month's Dubai Tour.
"We’re proud to wear these colours. I’ve won a stage at the Abu Dhabi Tour and I want to win another and as much as possible," the Italian sprinter said.
The team has been funded by Matar Suhail Al Yabhouni Al Dhaheri, who is the new president of the team. He hopes it will boost the profile of cycling and healthy lifestyles in the UAE and help inspire a generation of UAE riders.
"We are very pleased and excited to be the main sponsor of such a talented and historic team. We look forward to many years of working together, winning together and inspiring together a new generation of cyclists in the UAE and beyond," Al Dhaheri said.
"A strong positive attitude and life along with strong competition and sport are key to a healthy mind and lifestyle and we here in the Emirates want to promote such positive values in our locals and citiziens and indeed around the world,” he said during the presentation.
From TJ Sport and China to UAE Abu Dhabi in 10 days
General manager Giuseppe Saronni revealed how he and Mauro Gianetti managed to secure backing from the UAE in just 10 days after original funding from China failed to materialise. The UAE Abu Dhabi team was the 18th and last squad to secure a UCI WorldTour licence on December 20.
"I never had time to think that we wouldn't pull it off, we didn't have the time to think," Saronni admitted to Gazzetta dello Sport before the holidays.
"In 10 days we defined everything. We knew that we had to grab this chance or everything was over. We've gone from a family team with Lampre to a country team with UAE Abu Dhabi. The jersey will have the colours of the Emirates: white, green and red. Our investors really believe in the step that we're making and it's not a short-term project."
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, he described the arrival of backing from the UAE as a new chapter in the team’s life after 23 years of support from Lampre and other sponsors.
"Being able to start a new chapter in the team is something special, and it's great to do it here in Abu Dhabi, where we’ve discovered a lot of support and passion. I want to thank Mr. Matar and his people for what they’ve done, we’ll give our best to make them happy," Saronni said during the presentation.
"We have a responsibility to do well because were also representing an entire nation as we race around the world. This is an important first step for us. We want to develop and grow even further in the future."