The Colnago UAE Abu Dhabi WorldTour Team: Late last year we announced the partnership of Colnago joining forces with Chinese conglomerate TJ Sports for the first Chinese-backed WorldTour team. Whilst this is probably imminent in the future – for 2017 it was just not meant to be. TJ Sports withdrew from their agreement, leaving Team Manager Giuseppe Saronni just ten days to lock in another sponsor to register as a World Tour team. After the team training camp was cancelled in December things weren’t looking so good for the former Lampre-Merida team.

What happened to TJ Sport? It’s not entirely clear – but it’s thought that the main person in charge of coordinating the paperwork and sponsorship money in China fell sick and was unable to provide the goods, so to speak.

RELATED: COLNAGO SPONSORS FIRST WORLDTOUR CHINESE-BACKED TEAM

The team’s saving grace came from Abu Dhabi, the team re-named as ‘UAE Abu Dhabi’. Just in time, Saronni managed to register the team to be granted a WorldTour license for 2017, meeting the UCI requirements for team budget, roster and bank guarantees, with Colnago playing a key role in finding new sponsors to keep the team alive.

Matar Suhail Al Yabhouni Al Dhaheri is the president of the company funding the team. He hopes that it will help boost the profile of cycling and healthy lifestyles in the UAE and inspire a new generation of UAE riders.

“We are very pleased and excited to be the main sponsor of such a talented and historic team. We look forward to many years of working together, winning together and inspiring together a new generation of cyclists in the UAE and beyond,” Al Dhaheri said.

The team will run on a budget of around 8-9 million Euro (approximately 11-12 million AUD). Whilst this number may seem exorbitant to the outsider, this makes it one of the lowest WorldTour team budgets, just allowing enough to cover WorldTour status and to ensure all the riders are paid their agreed salaries. The team itself has around 60 full-time employees, all who were facing uncertainty before the Abu Dhabi sponsorship was announced.

The UAE Abu Dhabi team has re-signed Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi and Sacha Modolo. It has also added Ben Swift from Team Sky, Darwin Atapuma from BMC, Andrea Guardini from Astana, Vegard Stake Laengen from IAM Cycling and Marco Marcato from Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

“In 10 days we defined everything. We knew that we had to grab this chance or everything was over. We’ve gone from a family team with Lampre to a country team with UAE Abu Dhabi. The jersey will have the colours of the Emirates: white, green and red. Our investors really believe in the step that we’re making and it’s not a short-term project,” said Saronni at the Team Launch.

The team will ride red and black Colnago bikes – a mixture of the C60, V1r, K-Zero and the new Colnago Concept aero bike, equipped with Campagnolo groupsets. Their team kit is produced by champion system, the jersey sporting a profile of the Grand Mosque and the red, white and green colours of the UAE flag.

The team will be making their debut at the People’s Choice Classic at the Tour Down Under, this Sunday. Ben Swift will lead the team along with Ulissi Meintjes. The full team roster for the Tour Down Under is: Ben Zwift (GBR), Marco Marcato (ITA), Marko Kump (SLO), Vegard Laengen (NOR), Louis Meintjes (RSA), Manuele Mori (ITA) and Diego Ulissi (ITA).

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