After a hard season of racing it is difficult to predict who will emerge on the decisive climb to Jebel Hafeet on stage 3 of the Abu Dhabi Tour and so fight for overall victory.
Some riders are fatigued and unfit after injury or a long season of racing. Many riders can't wait to end their season and finally head off on vacation. Nobody in the Abu Dhabi peloton seems to know who will be the strongest on the 10km climb and so take the red leader's jersey.
Nicolas Roche has fought back from severe bacterial pneumonia contracted during the Rio Olympics to ensure his season did not end early. He is Team Sky's overall hope and has promised to give it ago despite not knowing the state of his form and climbing ability.
"For sure I'll commit but so will some others. It's about knowing and understanding how much my commitment is compared to the others. I'm going into the stage without feeling any pressure, knowing I'm just going to go for it," he told Cyclingnews.
"The last time I did a serious climb like Jebel Hafeet was a month ago in Il Lombardia. It's been a long time. I've been in the desert at the World Championships since then, doing the team time trial with Team Sky, the individual time trial and the road race with Ireland. I've only been training around those races before going to Dubai and then coming to Abu Dhabi.
"I watched last year's stage live on television and I noticed it's a solid climb that needs a big 20-minute effort. It's not going to be easy."
Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali have played down their chances and passed team leadership to others despite their success in stage races and climbing ability. Both are also about to end their time with the Tinkoff and Astana teams and so have little motivation to go deep in search of victory. However, Roche refused to write them off and will be watching for them on Jebel Hafeet at the end of Saturday's 150km stage.
"I think they'll commit," he said.
"I know both of them and when they go to a race, their level of fitness doesn't matter, they'll commit and want to win. They're both aggressive bike riders too, even if they're out of form they'll both race.
"Of course there are a lot of other teams, especially the non-WorldTour teams who will be on form and looking to get a result. They will see it as a huge opportunity and try to take advantage of our fatigue after a long WorldTour season. I think there will be a battle tomorrow but it won't necessary be the riders we're thinking of and perhaps riders from smaller teams."
Roche will also change teams in 2017, joining up with Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen at BMC. However, he wants to end his spell at Team Sky with pride.
"That's one of the reasons I'm still racing. After my sickness in August, there was no way I was going to end my season early," he said.
"I didn't want to finish on sickness. That's why I rode as hard as I could at the Tour of Britain and committed to being part of Team Sky's TTT squad for the World Championships. I've still got some fight in me."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
after your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.