The four-day race begins Thursday, and thanks to its new WorldTour status, it has attracted some of the biggest names in the peloton. The sprinters and their teams are expected to dominate the three flat stages but the overall classification should be decided by Saturday’s mountain finish to Jebel Hafeet.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and his former Astana teammate Fabio Aru will all be in action, and are all overall contenders. Bauke Mollema leads Trek-Segafredo and will have support from team leader Alberto Contador, while Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) will ensure a big-name show down on the 10.8km climb to Jebel Hafeet.
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) are just two of the sprinters due to contest the three flat stages in the Middle East.
Van Garderen has spent the winter mixing spells with his BMC teammates at training camps in Spain, and time at home in the USA. He has opted to target the Giro d’Italia in May. He is expected to ride Tirreno-Adriatico in March as he prepares for the Giro d’Italia.
"I'm excited to get my 2017 season underway at the Abu Dhabi Tour. It will be a very competitive race, especially as there are also UCI WorldTour points on the line this year,” Van Garderen said in a statement from BMC.
“I've worked hard this winter, and I hope to be able to prove this and to be up there on the general classification."
The American will have a strong team to back him and offer alternatives strategies to directeur sportif Max Sciandri and Jackson Stewart. Also on the team’s eight-rider roster for the Abu Dhabi Tour are Alessandro De Marchi, Manuel Quinziato, Nicolas Roche, Samuel Sánchez, Manuel Senni – who finished third at the recent Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Dylan Teuns, and Loïc Vliegen.
"Nicolas Roche, who was second here last year, and Samuel Sánchez, have both shown early season form and will be able to play a crucial support role on the steeper stage or step up if needed,” Stewart said.
“We have already seen some fast finishes in Dubai and Oman, so I think we can expect that here too. Our team is definitely up to the challenge, and each rider is capable of aggressive racing when it makes sense. With the Abu Dhabi Tour now part of the UCI World Tour, there will be added pressure for everyone however we have a strong team surrounding van Garderen, who, as always, has prepared well for the season ahead."