Viviani leads Deceuninck-QuickStep in UAE Tour

Evenepoel makes his WorldTour debut in Middle East

Elia Viviani will look to add to his list of eight wins in the United Arab Emirates, leading Deceuninck-QuickStep as captain in the UAE Tour. Viviani has been named as the leader of the Belgian team but he will share attention with 19-year-old Remco Evenepoel, who is making his WorldTour race debut.

Viviani has wrapped up sprint stages in the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour, taking overall victory in Dubai in 2018. The two races have combined for this year's UAE Tour and the race is no part of the WorldTour calendar. Viviani will look to Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini to provide a lead-out on the three stages expected to end in mass sprints.

Two of the seven stages are geared more to climbers, with mountaintop finishes on Jebel Hafeet and Jebel Jais.

Those climbs and the whole race will be an interesting test for Evenepoel. The Belgian neo-pro got his career off to a spectacular result with his ninth-place overall finish in his first pro race, the Vuelta a San Juan.

Dries Devenyns, Mikkel Honore and James Knox round out the squad for the Belgian team. 

“We come here with Elia as leader, he will have a solid and experienced lead-out train to rely on and we are confident that he can win a stage and be in contention for the points jersey,” said DS Geert Van Bondt.

“We are also curious how Dries, James and Remco will fare on the uphill finishes and what they can do in the general classification.”

Evenepoel was quietly confident he can perform in the UAE Tour against the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and Alejandro Valverde. Deceuninck-QuickStep will be one of the favourites for Sunday's opening 16km team time trial.

"The pressure and expectation are not a problem for me because I really don't care about it," Evenepoel said after the Vuelta a San Juan.

"I've just started racing and I'm not in very good shape yet, this was just a preparation race. I think my shape is good but hopefully, I can only get better and better."

Cyclingnews will have daily live coverage of the racing at the UAE Tour, with exclusive news and interviews from Sadhbh O'Shea in the UAE.

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