Breaking news: Bjorg Lambrecht extends with two years!
The 22-year-old Belgian will stay at Lotto Soudal at least till the end of 2021!
The United Arab Emirates Tour is the third WorldTour race of the year. This stage race originated from the merger between the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour, therefore being new on the calendar. It will be contested from Sunday 24 February until Saturday 2 March. The seven-day UAE Tour will kick off with a team time trial. Apart from a few flat stages through the desert, there are also two tough uphill finishes. Lotto Soudal rider Bjorg Lambrecht and sports director Mario Aerts look ahead to this first edition.
Bjorg Lambrecht: “This race is very similar to the Abu Dhabi Tour of 2018, but it lasts a little longer now. On paper, the course looks promising, so I think it will be a really beautiful stage race. With among others Roger Kluge and Maxime Monfort, we have a solid squad to complete the team time trial. It is not my strongest suit, but I progressed a lot by riding several team time trials last year. I am looking forward to it, because it is an important discipline. Only by practising, you can improve. We are aiming for a stage win with our leader Caleb Ewan. Sander Armée is in excellent shape as well, so we will both try to end close in the mountain stages. Furthermore, Maxime is very experienced to guide us and to put us in the right position.”
“I know the ascent of the Jebel Hafeet on the third day, because I finished thirteenth there last year. I will give my all to again do well on that climb. But of course, each year is different. I have marked three stages and my goal is to achieve a good result in at least one of them. The general classification is not a goal on its own, but it would be nice. The most important thing is to finish inside the top ten of a WorldTour race for the first time and to gain confidence towards the next races. My main goal this season is the Tour of the Basque Country. I also aim to perform well in the Walloon Classics. For such kind of finales I was not strong enough just yet last year, but currently I do feel a lot stronger.”
Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The UAE Tour offers a nice course with lots of variety. Two stages have a summit finish, one on top of a steep dam, three probable bunch sprints and a team time trial. Maybe there will be a few opportunities for echelons, however this was not a crucial aspect in Abu Dhabi the past few years. We are going to see day per day and if it happens, we will have to make sure that our riders are in the right group.”
“Our absolute ambition is to take a stage win. Caleb Ewan will be our best chance of success. He could not fulfil his planned training scheme for a while, because he had his wisdom teeth removed. In the UAE Tour he will reinitiate competition, in the perspective of Milan-San Remo. We have seen in the Tour Down Under that he does not really need a lead-out train. He just has to be in a good position to start his sprint. Roger Kluge and Adam Blythe will be the most important riders to deliver him in the right wheel. When I think back to the recent years in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the build-up to the sprint can be pretty hectic sometimes. There is a very strong field of competitors as well, just think of Gaviria, Viviani or Kittel.”
“Furthermore, Bjorg Lambrecht is free to show what he is capable of in the other stages and for the general classification. Naturally, the competition is really hard, so that will not be easy. Bjorg is young and he still has a big margin of progression. His peak is also a bit later in the season. We shall see how his shape is now, compared to other top riders like Dumoulin, Kelderman and Nibali.”
Stage 1 Sunday 24 February: Al Hudayriat – Al Hudayriat (TTT) (16 km)
Stage 2 Monday 25 February: Yas Island – Abu Dhabi (184 km)
Stage 3 Tuesday 26 February: Al Ain – Jebel Hafeet (179 km)
Stage 4 Wednesday 27 February: Dubai – Hatta Dam (205 km)
Stage 5 Thursday 28 February: Sharjah – Khor Fakkan (181 km)
Stage 6 Friday 1 March: Ajman – Jebel Jais (180 km)
Stage 7 Saturday 2 March: Dubai – Dubai (145 km)
Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Adam Blythe, Caleb Ewan, Adam Hansen, Roger Kluge, Bjorg Lambrecht and Maxime Monfort.
Sports director: Mario Aerts.