UAE-Emirates shrinks squad to 25 riders

Cycling's downward trend continued with UAE-Emirates, which will bring 25 riders into 2018 rather than the 29 it had this year.

Cycling’s downward trend at the WorldTour level continues as UAE-Emirates confirms a 25-rider squad for 2018.

Just a week after BMC Racing revealed it would tackle next season with 24 riders, citing a planned reduction of grand tour teams from nine to eight riders as a major factor, the Italian-Emirati outfit followed suit. The team eases back from 29 riders in 2017 to 25 for 2018.

“Our back tire is still on the roads of the 2017 season,” a UAE-Emirates team statement read, “while our front one is sprinting straight toward 2018.”

More teams across the peloton are reducing their respective line-ups ahead of a UCI-sanctioned rule favored by race organizers to roll back squad sizes for 2018. Next year, grand tours will be raced with eight riders per team instead of nine. And, one-day races and smaller stage races will start with seven-rider squads instead of eight.

It’s hoped that smaller teams will produce safer racing conditions and open up race dynamics. Recently elected UCI president David Lappartient even suggested in a French radio broadcast that he could envision six-rider squads for grand tours.

That background discussion comes as UAE-Emirates prepares for its second full season.

The team makes a big jump next season in what will be its second campaign under the new structure introduced this year. UAE and Emirates airlines came on as title sponsors for 2017 after the long-running team Lampre-Merida split following the 2016 season. Part of the team’s infrastructure and sponsorship went on to form Bahrain-Merida, anchored by Vincenzo Nibali, while the remainder regrouped under the UAE-Emirates banner.

With its infrastructure fully in place, the team is making big moves for next year.

The team played a big role in what was a busy rider transfer market. Its top new arrivals for 2018 include Fabio Aru (Astana), Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), Rory Sutherland (Movistar), and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin). Major departures include Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data), Sacha Modolo (Cannondale-Drapac), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), and Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF).

Aru’s departure has created a rift inside his former Astana team, which claims that Aru didn’t keep them informed of his decision to leave. Team manager Alexander Vinokourov even went so far this week as to suggest they might sue the budding Italian star for damages.

UAE-Emirates, meanwhile, also confirmed its technical staff, including the arrival of sport directors Josean Fernández Matxin, who worked as talent scout at Quick-Step, and recently retired pro Paolo Tiralongo.

The team finished 12th in the WorldTour team rankings, bumping up from 15th thanks to a strong season finale.

UAE-Emirates for 2018

Anass Ait el Abdia, Fabio Aru (Astana), Darwin Atapuma, Matteo Bono, Sven Erik Bystrøm (Katusha), Simone Consonni, Valerio Conti, Rui Costa, Kristijan Durasek, Roberto Ferrari, Filippo Ganna, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Vegard Stake Laengen, Marco Marcato, Daniel Martin, Yousif Mirza, Manuele Mori, Simone Petilli, Jan Polanc, Edward Ravasi, Aleksandr Riabushenko, Rory Sutherland (Movistar), Ben Swift, Oliviero Troia, and Diego Ulissi.