Fresh off his top-10 finish at the Tour Colombia 2.1, Sergio Henao will lead UAE Team Emirates at Paris-Nice next week, while teammate and late roster addition Fabio Aru continues to ease into his season after starting with the Mallorca Challenge in Spain before taking 29th overall at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal.
Henao, who won Paris-Nice in 2017, joined UAE Team Emirates this year after seven years with Team Sky, and is eager to prove himself as a GC contender. Aru is not in top shape, but will use Paris-Nice as a key stepping stone as he builds toward the Giro d'Italia in May. If Henao is in a good position overall, then Aru will work for his new teammate.
With the absence from the roster of sprinter Fernando Gaviria, who's racing Strade Bianche on Saturday, Alexander Kristoff will also be eager to have free rein to go for the sprints on the opening three stages.
The race starts on Sunday in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside Paris, with a 138.5km stage that should end with a bunch sprint. The first three stages don't include any serious climbing, but the riders will need to pay attention to the wind and likely bad weather that often strikes the race. The fourth stage includes rolling hills before the 25.5km stage 5 time trial in Barbentane.
The race ends with three consecutive mountain stages, with the summit finish on the Col de Turini on the penultimate day likely to sort out the overall classification.
"We'll be at Paris-Nice with Henao, who's already been an overall winner," said general manager Matxin Joxean Fernandez. "It's his first European race of 2019 after he began at the Tour Colombia. Diego Ulissi, who rode well at the UAE Tour, will ride at his side, and Fabio Aru will compete without pressure to perform in the general classification.
"The team is balanced," Fernandez added, "and we can count on a good group of riders to support Kristoff, who will aim for the first three stages that suit the sprinters."
UAE Team Emirates for the 2019 Paris-Nice: Fabio Aru, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Sergio Henao, Alexander Kristoff, Marco Marcato, Rory Sutherland, Diego Ulissi