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Chris Froome makes high-profile season debut at UAE Tour

Israel Start-Up Nation downplays expectations in 2021 debut for four-time Tour de France champion.

All eyes will be on Chris Froome this weekend as he makes a high-profile season debut in the UAE Tour.

In what’s his first race in the Israel Start-Up Nation jersey, Froome will be keen to measure his form following an intense winter of training and continued rehabilitation work in California.

“It is with much anticipation that I will be kicking off my 2021 season in Dubai at the UAE Tour,” Froome said Friday. “It will be my first race with Israel Start-Up Nation and the start of a new and exciting adventure for me. I look forward to racing with my new teammates and testing out my legs after a productive winter.”

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The four-time Tour de France winner is optimistic about this season, and said this month that he feels fully recovered from his horrific crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. Froome is putting a return to the Tour at the center of his ambitions, and team officials downplayed expectations for the weeklong UAE Tour starting Sunday.

“Being as it’s Chris’s first race following a good and successful period of training and rehab, we expect him to use the UAE Tour as a building block to further develop his shape towards the bigger objectives that are waiting down the line,” said team manager Kjell Carlström.

The team’s performance manager Paulo Saldanha has been monitoring and directing Froome’s training closely since he joined ISN, with a focus on rebalancing his key cycling muscles, team officials said.

“The UAE Tour will be a great opportunity to get Chris back to his race rhythm and speed,” Saldanha said. “Above and beyond helping and supporting his team through the race, the racer will be a good test of his newly balanced musculature.”

Joining Froome are André Greipel, Ben Hermans, Omer Goldstein, Alex Dowsett, Rick Zabel and Matthias Brändle.

“We aim for the highest results,” said sport director Rik Verbrugghe. “It’s hard to put a number on that. We want to show that Greipel is still in the highest ranks among the sprinters, and that Hermans and Froome are strong climbers.”

Chris Froome, shown here with teammate Omer Goldstein, makes his season debut at the UAE Tour. Photo: ISN/Sjors Beukeboom