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Chris Froome's comeback will dominate the second edition of the UAE Tour when it pushes off from Dubai on Sunday, February 23. The event will be Froome's first race back after breaking his leg in June and undergoing extensive rehabilitation.
Once underway, the sprinters will have plenty of opportunities, starting with day one in Dubai. Instead of an openning team time trial, a flat stage starts the Middle East race.
Almost centrally, a sprinter will be wearing the red leader's jersey at the end of the day at the Dubai Silicon Oasis.
The Sprint Tournament
An all-star list of sprinters will be contesting the second WorldTour stage race of 2020: Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Mark Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren), and many more. Judging by recent performances, expect Ackermann, Ewan, and Bennett to dominate the headlines in the available stages.
They will battle for their slice of the UAE pie in stages one, four, six, and the final, seven in Abu Dhabi. Then there is stage two, one of the most interesting stages on the menu with the ramp up to the top of Hatta Dam. Ewan, the smallest of the sprinters, survived last year to out-kick Matteo Moschetti and eventual overall winner, Primoz Roglic. The road travels straight up for 600 meters with an average grade of 7%.
The GC Stars
The overall contenders will fight for time at the dam and in the two summit finishes to Jebel Hafeet. The climb once was the queen stage in the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Last year, when the race was combined with the Dubai Tour to form the UAE Tour, Jebel Hafeet was one of two summit finishes with Jebel Jais. This year, due to road work, the organizer will use the summit finish twice in stages three and five.
The 10.8km climb averages 6.8% with its wide sweeping roads offering amazing views of the the rough and rugged landscape.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), who won the Jebel Hafeet climb in 2019, will be one of the favorites. However, given his ride in Valenciana, 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) should rip apart the field in the Emirates. Expect him to gain seconds on the Hatta Dam climb and minutes to some in the Jebel Hafeet stages.
Chris Froome (Ineos) will rack up the first racing kilometers in his build up to a possible fifth Tour de France title this July. Don't expect too much from him given his seven-month break. The team could work for Eddie Dunbar, who rode well in the Tour de la Provence.
Pogacar will be motivated to win UAE-Team Emirates' home race. However, in addition to Valverde, he will be up against Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Wout Poels (Bahrain-McLaren). Roglic will not return and his team Jumbo-Visma will focus on the sprints with Groenewegen.