Nibali, Cavendish headline Abu Dhabi Tour

Vincenzo Nibali and Mark Cavendish are two of several top riders who will compete at the inaugural four-day race.

PARIS (AFP) — 2014 Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali leads a strong field into the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour, a lineup that also includes Mark Cavendish and Alejandro Valverde.

Crowd favorite Peter Sagan, who won a fourth green jersey as points leader at the recent Tour de France, has also committed to compete, as 18 teams of six riders will race over four stages on consecutive days beginning October 8.

The lineup for the 555-kilometer race includes 10 UCI WorldTeams and five Pro Continental squads.

Cavendish is a star attraction wherever he competes, and his haul of 26 Tour de France stage wins is the third best tally in history and is only eight behind record holder Eddy Merckx.

Valverde, the veteran 35-year-old Spaniard, was third at this year’s Tour de France and is a strong challenger to Nibali for the overall crown in Abu Dhabi. Richie Porte will also race.

Former world champion and classics specialist Philippe Gilbert will saddle up for BMC Racing, while Fabio Aru of Astana will race following his recent victory at the Vuelta a España.

Teams and their leaders

Astana (Kaz) – Nibali, Aru
BMC Racing (USA) – Gilbert
Bora-Argon 18 18 (G) – Buchmann
Colombia (Col) – Quintero
Drapac (Aus) – Brown
Etixx-Quick-Step (B) – Cavendish
Giant-Alpecin (G) – Kittel, Dumoulin, Ji Cheng
Katusha (Rus) – Rodríguez
Lampre-Merida (I) – Ulissi, Xu Gang
Movistar (Sp) – Valverde
MTN-Qhubeka (SA) – Teklehaimanot
Orica-GreenEdge (Aus) – Matthews, Chaves
Skydive Dubai – Al Ahli Club (UAE) – Al Murawwi
Team Sky (GB) – Porte
Team Wiggins (GB) – Patten
Tinkoff-Saxo (Rus) – Sagan
UAE National Team – Yousif Mirza
UnitedHealthcare (USA) – Brajkovic