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Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 includes ITT, attracts big stars

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RCS Sport confirmed on Tuesday at the route presentation of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour that Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates) will attempt to defend his title. Photo: ©Tim De Waele/Getty Images

The Abu Dhabi Tour has expanded to five stages in 2018 and will include an individual time trial for the first time on stage 4.

Defending champion Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates) is confirmed to start the race, which runs February 21-25. Giro d’Italia champion Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) will also be there. Other general classification riders include Costa’s teammate Fabio Aru, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Miguel Ángel López (Astana), Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), and Illnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin).

The start list is just as robust when it comes to sprinters with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors), and Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) all slated to race.

“Last season was horrible for me. I had a lot of health problems, but the one win I got was here in Abu Dhabi — a very special place for me and in certain terms, a second home for me and for my family too,” Cavendish said at the route presentation. “Last year, I was very proud to wear the red jersey as leader at the end of stages 1 and 2, and win the final green jersey for the second year consecutively. I hope to repeat that success in 2018 and to be on the final podium again.”

The Abu Dhabi Tour will contain 17 of the 18 WorldTour teams with FDJ the lone top-tier team not attending. The WorldTour teams will be joined in the Middle East by Pro Continental teams Bardiani-CSF, Gazprom-Rusvelo, and Team Novo Nordisk. Andrea Guardini, winner of the first stage of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour in 2015 will be part of Bardiani-CSF’s roster.

In its fourth year (second year as a WorldTour event), the Abu Dhabi Tour will span five stages and a total of 686.8 kilometers in 2018. The first three stages are expected to end in a bunch sprint, with the time trial coming on the fourth stage and final stage finishing atop the 12-kilometer climb to Jebel Hafeet.

The opening stage will start and finish in Madinat Zayed and run entirely through the desert with the second stage taking place on Yas Island. The third stage of the race will center around the capital and should end in a bunch sprint.

The race turns toward the general classification riders for the final two days of racing with the stage four individual time trial being contested on a course suited to those that can push a big gear and produced a considerable amount of power. The route has just two bends and a single U-turn, so look for Dumoulin to make his mark heading into the final stage.

The time trial element means that the finale of the 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour should be an exciting one, as the climbers who lost time will be forced to attack to have a shot at the overall title. Stage 5 begins in Al Ain and travels to Jebel Hafeet, which is at the top of a 12-kilometer climb. Costa solidified his overall victory in 2017 by winning atop the climb.

2018 Abu Dhabi Tour route

Stage 1: February 21, Madinat Zayed-Madinat Zayed — 189km
Stage 2: February 22, Yas Mall-Yas Beach — 154km
Stage 3: February 23, Nation Towers-Big Flag — 133km
Stage 4: February 24, Al Maryan Island — 11.8km ITT
Stage 5: February 25, Al Ain-Jabel Hafeet — 199km

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