Meintjes and Costa to lead UAE charge at Grand Tour
UAE rider Rui Costa (left) will be making his first appearance at Vuelta a España.
Dubai - The Vuelta a Espana is the final showdown of the season and the youngest of the three Grand Tours
UAE Team Emirates has announced the team that will tackle their first Vuelta a Espana - the third and final Grand Tour of the UCI World Tour season, this Saturday making it the first time that UAE colours will adorn the race. The line-up includes strong General Classification (GC) contenders as well as climbing and sprint specialists.
The Vuelta a Espana is the final showdown of the season and the youngest of the three Grand Tours starting in 1935, the Giro d'Italia began in 1909 while the Tour de France was established in 1903.
This year's edition kicks off with a 13.8km Team Time Trial in Nimes, France, making it the third time in 80 years that the opening race of the Tour has begun outside of Spain since 2009.
The race takes place from August 19 to September 10, across 21 stages covering a total distance of 3,324km, with the GC winner taking home the coveted Maillot Rojo (Red Jersey).
Leading the UAE Team Emirates GC charge is South African rider Louis Meintjes and Portuguese rider Rui Costa, the latter of whom will be making his first appearance at Vuelta a España.
Commenting on his debut, former World Champion and UAE Team Emirates' rider, Rui Costa said: "This will be my race debut and I am excited about taking part in it. I am looking forward to enjoying every single stage and the challenges that come with it. The season is nearing its end and I want to savour every minute."
Speaking on his upcoming participation in the final Grand Tour of the season, South African Louis Meintjes said: "I'm currently undergoing altitude training in Andorra in preparation for the Vuelta. The training has been going really well following the Tour de France. I am gunning for a good GC result but it all depends on my performance, my body is still recovering."
Joining the GC contenders on the UAE Team Emirates line-up are six other riders including; Moroccan Anass Ait El Abdia, Italians Sacha Modolo and Federico Zurlo, Slovenians Jan Polanc and Matej Mohoric, Colombian Darwin Atapuma and Pole Przemyslaw Niemiec.
Confirming the line-up, UAE Team Emirates' Sporting Director Simone Pedrazzini said: "We are quite happy with the selection and believe we have a good team with a varied selection of specialisms. The riders are in-form and hopefully we will be able to target a few stage wins. Our GC contenders will be Meintjes and Costa, who will both be on the lookout for a top ten finish, while Darwin Atapuma and Jan Polanc will compete to be King of the Mountain. Our fastest rider, Modolo will be supported by two of our younger riders, Mohoric and Zurlo with El Abdia making his Grand Tour debut. Amongst the line up as well is Niemiec, who has previously won a stage in the 2014 edition of the race and his experience will definitely be valuable."
Like the previous two Grand Tours, this year's Vuelta route will feature an exciting array of stages with nine summit finishes, including the 13.3km long ascent to Alto de l'Angliru in Asturias, where riders climb 1,573 metres with grades as steep as 23.6 per cent, making it one of the steepest climbs in Europe, ensuring to shake up the overall classification before the final stage in Madrid.
The route will also take riders across six flat stages, eight hilly stages, five demanding mountain stages, one Team and one Individual Time Trial. Setting off from Nîmes, the first two stages of La Vuelta will be contested in France before crossing the Pyrenees towards Andorra, taking the peloton across the northern Spanish coast. The remainder of the stages will see riders cross the finish line in the following spanish cities: Tarragona, Valencia, Murcia, Andalusia, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, Cantabria, Asturias and ending in the stunning Spanish city of Madrid.