Chris Froome and Alex Dowsett haven't raced on the same trade team for a decade, when the pair were seen as domestiques on Team Sky, but on Sunday the duo will join forces for the first time since 2011 when they race for Israel Start-Up Nation at the UAE Tour.
Froome joined from Ineos Grenadiers over the winter, while Dowsett was handed a new contract on the team after his memorable stage win in the Giro d'Italia, and the Londoner is looking forward to linking up with his former teammate.
"I am a looking forward to racing with Chris Froome. Last time Chris and I rode together was in 2011, when we were both on the Team Sky C-team, so this is surely going to be lots of fun," he said.
The race marks Froome's first outing on a new team since he joined Team Sky in 2010 and he has spent almost all of his winter training in California and using the off-season to put the finishing touches so his recovery from the 2019 crash that almost cost him his career.
His focus for this year remains on the Tour de France but the UAE Tour will provide a backdrop for him to show signs of progression. He used the 2020 edition of the race to re-start his career a long rehabilitation.
"It is with much anticipation that I will be kicking off my 2021 season in Dubai at the UAE Tour," said Froome, who will compete in the race following three months of rehab and training in California.
"It will be my first race with Israel Start-Up Nation and the start of a new and exciting adventure for me. I look forward to racing with my new teammates and testing out my legs after a productive winter."
Froome will have the individual time trial on stage 2 to test his form and race competitively on his new Factor TT bike, while the two mountain stages in the race will give him the opportunity to race against last year’s Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and last year’s UAE Tour winner Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers).
Rik Verbrugghe is not putting any pressure on Froome given that it’s only February but the team director is expecting Israel Start-Up Nation’s new and improved line-up to step up.
"The team’s ambitions for the UAE Tour, which consists of four flat stages, one individual time trial and two mountain stages, are clear. We aim for the highest results," Verbrugghe, said.
"But it is hard to put a number on that. We want to show that [Andre] Greipel is still in the highest ranks amongst sprinters, and that [Ben] Hermans and [Chris] Froome are strong climbers."
Team manager Kjell Carlström echoed Verbrugghe’s sentiments, stressing that the main goals for Froome and the team come much later in the season but that signs of progression were expected.
"Seeing as it’s Chris’s first race following a good and successful period of training and rehab, we expect him to use the UAE Tour as a building block to further develop his shape towards the bigger objectives that are waiting down the line."
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