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Cofidis skips UAE Tour as teams confirmed for 2022 WorldTour opener

Race organizers confirm the 20 starting teams, with Cofidis opting out of the men's WorldTour opener.

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The 2022 men’s WorldTour clicks into gear with the UAE Tour, February 20-26, with race organizers confirming the 20 starting teams Monday.

Three ProTeam squads join 17 of the 18 WorldTour teams for the Middle East stage race.

Alpecin-Fenix, the highest-ranked ProTeam of both 2021 and 2020, returns for the second year in a row, along with Bardiani CSF Faizanè and Gazprom-Rusvelo.

French WorldTour team Cofidis is skipping the race because it already has a packed program. The UAE Tour is one of the WorldTour races that does not require all WorldTour teams to start.

“We already have a full schedule,” Cofidis general manager Cedric Vasseur told VeloNews.” It’s because we cannot be at all the races. We are already doing the Tour of Oman and the Saudi Tour, plus races in Spain and Belgium, so it was not possible to do three different races every week. So we decided to skip the UAE Tour, that’s the only reason.”

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For the second consecutive year, the coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to cancel traditional WorldTour calendar openers in Australia at the Santos Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

That puts the UAE Tour, now in its fourth edition, as the first race on the men’s WorldTour calendar.

The race will see the first WorldTour clash of 2022 between UAE Emirates, Ineos Grenadiers, and Jumbo-Visma.

Start lists are not yet official, but some big names are already confirmed.

Defending champion Tadej Pogačar will be making his season debut as part of an ambitious 2022 calendar that includes a defense of the yellow jersey at the Tour de France as well as a likely start at the Vuelta a España and the Tour of Flanders.

Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Romain Bardet (DSM), and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), hot off winning his season debut at the Volta a Valenciana, are also penciled in for a start.

The seven-day race will also see a host of top-flight sprinters, including Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal).