Belgian WorldTour team Lotto Soudal is hunting stage wins at the Abu Dhabi Tour this week. André Greipel leads the sprint ambitions with the German aiming to add to his Tour Down Under stage wins last month.
"We really want to win a stage at Abu Dhabi Tour this week and we have most chance on the first three days, all sprint stages," said sports director Mario Aerts.
The sprint field at the WorldTour Abu Dhabi Tour is world class in 2018 and Aerts is under no illusion of the challenge ahead. However, with a confident squad assembled in the Persian Gulf, Aerts believe the team can add to its haul of six wins thus far this season.
"André Greipel will have to face some strong opponents, because the list of top sprinters is long: Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan, Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff and Elia Viviani. His two stage wins at Tour Down Under gave André a lot of confidence and he is surrounded by a good team, with experienced riders such as Adam Hansen and Marcel Sieberg."
Due the number of teams with sprint ambitions, Aerts added that he believes there will be cooperation in controlling the stages and there will be three clear chances for wins with Greipel.
"Because of the mutual ambitions, I expect that all sprint teams will take responsibility to control the breakaways the following days," he said. "If there would be a lot of wind, echelons could change the expected sprint scenario, but I think we have three nice bunch sprints ahead of us."
Armée, who took a breakthrough stage win last year at the Vuelta a Espana, makes his 2018 stage race debut in Abu Dhabi. Lambrecht also lines out for his first stage race with Lotto Soudal after a UCI Whereabouts error stopped him from racing the Tour Down Under. As a result, the duo will have little expectation for a result come Sunday afternoon.
"Afterwards it's up to the GC riders, with a time trial on Saturday and a summit finish on Sunday," said Aerts. "There's not much chance that a break will stand till the end on Sunday. We'll see where Sander Armée finishes. We don't put any pressure on neo-pro Bjorg Lambrecht, but we'll see how he performs."
The race opens with a 189 kilometres stage that will start and finish at Madinat Zayed.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, with live updates of the action, stage reports, photo galleries and exclusive news.
Lotto Soudal for the Abu Dhabi Tour: Sander Armée, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Bjorg Lambrecht, Rémy Mertz and Marcel Sieberg.
Click here to read the Cyclingnews preview of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour.