Chris Froome and Andrey Amador headline Ineos squad for UAE Tour
Teenager Carlos Rodriguez makes his pro debut
Team Ineos have unveiled their squad for the upcoming UAE Tour, with Chris Froome making his return to racing after an eight-month absence and Andrey Amador making his debut for the team after a long contractual dispute.
Froome has not raced since the Critérium du Dauphiné last June, where he crashed while practicing on the time trial course and broke his femur, hip, elbow, vertebrae and sternum.
After undergoing various operations, he began training again in December and set himself the target of winning a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title in July.
Last month, Froome announced his plans to return at the UAE Tour, which runs from February 23-29, and on Thursday Ineos announced him as one of their seven riders for the seven-stage race. Froome himself has said there's no guarantee he'll be able to return to his former level and the UAE Tour will give a good indication of his progress and how realistic his Tour ambitions are.
While Froome eases his way back into racing, Ineos' hopes for the race, which will be shaped by two summit finishes on Jebel Hafeet, may well lie with Eddie Dunbar, who placed sixth at the recent Tour de la Provence.
While Michael Golas, Christian Knees, and Salvatore Puccio, three long-standing Ineos riders, will be on domestique duty, there are two other big names in the Ineos line-up: Amador and teenager Carlos Rodríguez.
Amador was only unveiled as an Ineos rider last week after a dispute with his former team, Movistar, was finally settled by the UCI Arbitral Board. The Costa Rican had signalled his desire for the move last summer but had already signed a pre-contract agreement for an extension at Movistar. Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué said he would not keep the rider against his will but that he would have to pay the release clause to free himself from the pre-contract.
The matter dragged on through Christmas and well into the season, before Movistar announced last week they had reached an agreement with the 33-year-old and Ineos announced his arrival the following day.
Amador's plans for the season have not yet been announced but he was signed as one of the leading Grand Tour domestiques in the peloton, having guided Richard Carapaz - another Ineos signing - to Giro d'Italia victory last year.
Ineos' squad for the UAE Tour is rounded out by Carlos Rodríguez, who is the latest rider - after Remco Evenepoel and Quinn Simmons - to skip the U23 ranks and head straight from the juniors to the WorldTour.
The Spanish all-rounder, who turned 19 earlier this month, used to ride for Kometa development team set up by Alberto Contador, winning the Spanish junior time trial title two years in a row, along with the Tour de Gironde stage race and Gipuzkoa Klasika one-day race.
His debut season will be built around gaining experience, as he combines racing with university studies.
Team Ineos for UAE Tour: Andrey Amador, Eddie Dunbar, Chris Froome, Michael Golas, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Carlos Rodríguez.
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By Josh Croxton