Fernando Gaviria has been left out of the UAE Team Emirates squad for the 2019 Tour de France, as the Colombian sprinter continues to struggle with a knee injury. Dan Martin will lead the team’s overall challenge, while Fabio Aru has also earned selection after completing the Tour de Suisse last week.
Winner of two stages on last year’s Tour, Gaviria abandoned the Giro d’Italia in the opening week citing a knee problem and has not raced since. The Colombian’s participation in the Tour de France has been in doubt for several weeks and his absence was confirmed on Thursday, when UAE TEam Emirates confirmed their final eight rider for the Tour de France.
Alexander Kristoff will instead serve as UAE Team Emirates’ lead sprinter, while young fast man Jasper Philipsen has also been handed a debut in La Grande Boucle in what is his first season at WorldTour level. The Belgian youngster was a stage winner at the Tour Down Under in January and has been consistently well-placed in recent sprints.
This year’s Tour de France begins with a 192km stage that starts and finishes in Brussels, and the flat terrain should ensure that the sprinters fight it out for the first maillot jaune of the race.
Kristoff won the sprint on the Champs-Élysées last year and landed two stages in 2014. The Norwegian, who won Gent-Wevelgem this spring, recently extended his contract with UAE Team Emirates.
As well as Philipsen, Kristoff will also be able to rely on the support of fellow Norwegians Sven Erik Bystrøm and Vegard Stake Laengen in the bunch sprints.
“I’ll be going to this Tour with the objective to try to win a stage, as well as relive the great emotions of last year,” Kristoff said. “This season my form was better than it has been the past few years, but the level of all the top riders is so high that a good condition is not enough, you also need enormous determination and a little luck.”
Dan Martin has placed in the top 10 on each of the past three editions of the Tour de France, including sixth overall in 2017. The Irishman was a stage winner in 2018 and was also feted on the Champs-Élysées as the Tour’s most combative rider. Second overall at the Tour of the Basque Country and eighth at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, Martin will look to race aggressively again in July.
“I’m really excited to get racing again at the Tour. I feel good in training and the Dauphiné went really well, even if we didn’t see the same aggressive racing in the mountains that we normally do,” Martin said. “I’ve come out of the Dauphiné well and I like the look of the course this year, plus we have a super strong team with a lot of different options and cards to play. I’m just looking forward to get started now.”
Aru cautious but back on track
Fabio Aru missed the Giro d'Italia after he was diagnosed with a constriction of the iliac artery in his left leg. He underwent surgery on April 1 but returned to action at the GP Lugano in early June. It originally appeared he would target the Vuelta a España but after finishing the Tour de Suisse in 21st overall, he has been named to the Tour de France team as he continues his come back.
Aru placed fifth overall in the 2017 Tour de France, won atop La Planche des Belles Filles and had a stint in the yellow jersey. In a statement on Thursday, the Sardinian said that he had no GC ambitions on this Tour.
“Through the last few months and during my injury I’ve always stayed calm andI’m taking that into this Tour de France: I will not be in France to worry about the general classification, the Grande Boucle will be an exciting new chapter as I reboot my season,” Aru said.
“I expect that my performance will improve step by step, I will fight to be competitive and to help the overall objectives of the team and will aim for a stage win if the conditions are right.”
The UAE Team Emirates line-up is completed by three-time stage winner Rui Costa and Sergio Henao, who joined from Team Sky during the off-season. The Colombian placed 12th overall in 2016 while helping Chris Froome to Tour victory.
The 2019 Tour begins in Brussels on July 6.
UAE Team Emirates for the 2019 Tour de France: Fabio Aru (Ita), Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor), Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por), Sergio Henao (Col), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Daniel Martin (Irl), Jasper Philipsen (Bel).
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