EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale makes its Abu Dhabi Tour debut with a well-rounded squad focused on stage wins.
Lawson Craddock, Kim Magnusson and Mike Woods will start their seasons in the UAE. They are joined by Will Clarke, Dan McLay, Dani Moreno and Pierre Rolland.
“I expect the entire team to be competitive,” said sport director Tom Southam. “It’s still early season, but it’s not the 1980’s when everyone goes skiing for three months. They’ve all looked after themselves in the winter, and Mike, in particular, is a guy who is pretty quick off the mark because, frankly, he is just a machine.”
The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour runs from Wednesday February 21 – Sunday February 25. The race caps off a three-week period of Middle Eastern racing that began with the Dubai Tour followed by Tour of Oman. The Abu Dhabi Tour is the newest of the three races and the only one to boast WorldTour status.
The opening three stages of Abu Dhabi Tour are all but assured to end in a field sprint. After the sprinters take their chances, an 11-kilometer time trial will provide the first general classification test. The race ends with a mountaintop finish up Jabel Hafeet
Woods will have his chance on the steep slopes of the final stage. Dan McLay will fly the #PinkArgyle flag in the sprints.
“We have a number of options for stage success, which is something I’d like to see more than a general classification result – although I certainly don’t consider the two mutually exclusive,” said Southam. “We’ll support Dan to the absolute maximum in the sprints. Even if we don’t have a full dedicated lead-out train, he can be there. That boy can find a gap alright.
“The individual time trial is new to the race, and I suspect it will have an impact on the overall,” said Southam. “We’ll let ‘Mr. Fourth Week’ loose on stage five. What’s not to be excited about given our roster?”
Weather conditions often play a role in the race action in the Persian Gulf. The now defunct Tour of Qatar was regularly decided by echelons formed on windswept roads. A sandstorm forced the cancellation of one stage of the 2017 Dubai Tour and wrecked havoc on another.
“Historically wind doesn’t appear to have played the same decisive role as it did in Qatar, but whenever you have stretches of open road and zero wind cover, it has to be a consideration,” noted Southam. “If nothing else, the threat of crosswinds can make things pretty tense. The desert heat is also a factor, but it’s not the same extreme heat we faced in Australia in January, so it should be more a case of managing a seasonal shift than actually dealing with 40 degree days one after another.”
EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour:
Tom Southam (GBR)
Will Clarke (AUS)
Lawson Craddock (USA)
Kim Magnusson (SWE)
Dan McLay (GBR)
Dani Moreno (ESP)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Mike Woods (CAN)