The start of the 2021 UCI WorldTour season is just around the corner. Racing at the highest level kicks off this weekend with the UAE Tour.
Although it does not take place in a traditional cycling hotbed, the event has produced some exciting racing over the past few years.
Additionally, as the first event on the WorldTour calendar, the UAE Tour provides teams with an opportunity to hit the ground running. All 20 WorldTour teams will be present, meaning that there will be a whole lot of top notch talent on display.
If you need a reminder with regard to what each teams’ threads will look like, check out my article breaking down every WorldTour kit here.
A provisional riders list has been released on the UAE Tour website. Subsequently, we have a general idea of what the teams will look like. It appears that we will be treated to the participation of several big-name riders at the 2021 edition. The favorites will look to add their names to a list of winners that has included the likes of Adam Yates, Primož Roglič and Alejandro Valverde in the past three years.
Teams to Watch
Looking at the provisional start list, there are a few teams that immediately jump out.
The first of those is the home team, UAE-Team Emirates. Defending Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar is a real threat for the overall victory. We also just might get our first glimpse of UAE-Team Emirates new one two punch of Pogačar and Marc Hirschi.
Israel Start-Up Nation is also a team to watch because of the presence of Chris Froome. This race could be the first time since 2009 that we have seen Froome race for a team that is not Sky/Ineos. There is certainly a chance that the 35-year-old Froome will not reach his top levels with ISN, but it is a compelling storyline nonetheless.
For American fans, Team Jumbo-Visma is one to keep an eye on. On paper, Sepp Kuss is the best climber on TJV’s provisional line up. This means that the Colorado native just might be given full team support to ride for the GC. 2021 could be a big season for Kuss. There is a chance that the American might be given his first leadership role at a Grand Tour. The young Dane Jonas Vingegaard could form a nice climbing duo with Kuss after showing good legs at La Vuelta a season ago. David Dekker is another rider to watch for Jumbo-Visma. Still only 23, the Dutchman has a big future ahead of him.
On paper, Deceuninck – Quick Step have a good chance to pick up a victory or two at this race. They have the riders to produce an almost unbeatable leadout train for top sprinter Sam Bennett. Additionally, they have a couple of interesting GC cards to play. João Almeida and Fausto Masnada are both talented climbers, and they showed they could collaborate well at last season’s Giro.
The 2021 UAE Tour will take place over the course of seven stages. Four of those stages will likely be contested by the sprinters. The other three stages will be GC days, with an ITT and two days for the climbers.
Stages one, four, six and seven all should be decided by bunch charges. At their best, Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan and Pascal Ackermann are probably the three fastest finishers on the provisional list. Fernando Gaviria, Andrea Vendrame, Jasper Philipsen, Phil Bauhaus, Elia Viviani, Giacomo Nizzolo and Mads Pedersen all also have the ability to be present and accounted for in the closing kilometers of the flat stages. Another rider who should be mentioned is Mathieu van der Poel, who could be riding in his first race for a WorldTour team. He is not a pure sprinter, but his astronomical level of talent means a victory is never entirely out of the question.
For stage two’s 13 kilometer ITT, the heavy favorite has to be reigning World Champion Filippo Ganna. The Italian has an incredible engine, and not many pros can match his power output on a short course like this one. Mikkel Berg, Jonathan Castroviejo and Mattia Cattaneo are a few other riders who could shine during the ITT.
Stages three and five are when the climbing battles will take place. The two days finish respectively with the climbs of Jebel Hafeet and Jebel Jais. Jebel Hafeet is 10.6 kilometers with an average gradient of 6.8%. Jebel Jais is longer and less steep, with 21.5 kilometers at 5.4%. There is a lengthy list of riders who could come to the forefront on these two climbs. Dani Martínez, Wout Poels, Emanuel Buchmann and Rigoberto Urán are a few key names that have not already been mentioned.
It is tough to know for sure what this race will look like before the start list is finalized. Based on the provisional list that we have, Tadej Pogačar seems like a pretty solid bet for overall victory. Last year’s UAE Tour featured two stages that finished on top of Jebel Hafeet. Pogačar finished second the first time and won the second stage. The twenty two-year-old is suited to the climbs in this race. At his best, he has a level that very few can match.
It is always difficult to predict early season races. Riders always begin the season with varying levels of fitness depending on what their major goals are. There are a fair few names on the provisional list who could win stages or the overall this year. Hopefully that means we get some wide open racing.
After the conclusion of the UAE Tour, racing really picks up in earnest. Several huge races like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche are lurking just around the corner. After a long wait, cycling really is back!
Use Promo code “couchguy20” or “LLP” at Manscaped.com and grab some of the best tools in men’s below the belt grooming. Using the code will get you 20% off of your order AND free shipping. Help out the site and help out yourself by buying some products from Manscaped TODAY.
– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)