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Chris Froome returns to the peloton at the UAE Tour

Brit's recovery road leads to third round of 2020 WorldTour

Chris Froome’s long road back from an injury suffered last June has led to Sunday’s start of the 2nd UAE Tour, the third round of the 2020 WorldTour. The seven-time Grand Tour winner has his sights set on the Tour de France and the Tokyo Olympic Games this season.

The UAE Tour resulted from merging the WorldTour Abu Dhabi Tour with the 2.HC Dubai Tour. Movistar headliner Alejandro Valverde won the last Abu Dhabi Tour, and Elia Viviani, absent from the Cofidis lineup, took the final Dubai Tour crown. Reigning UAE Tour champ Primož Roglič is absent, choosing to make his season debut March 8 at Paris-Nice.

This year’s edition of the UAE Tour visits all seven emirates and includes two summit finishes on Jabel Hafeet, after Stage 3 had to be rerouted two weeks from the start due to road work. Jebel Hafeet will also be the climax of Stage 5. It’s 10 km long with slopes around 8 percent, and up to 11 percent 3 km from the finish. The Hatta Dam finish on Stage 2 has a maximum of 17 percent, but sprinter Caleb Ewan won there last year, so it’s not a pure climber’s playground.

Nobody expects Froome to be a GC contender in this race, but his ex-teammate Wout Poels, now with Bahrain-Merida, has a chance at a podium even with Slovenian sensation Tadej Pogačar, Wilco Kelderman, Adam Yates, Valverde and BORA-Hansgrohe duo Rafal Majka and Emanuel Buchmann in the race.

Froome will have brand new INEOS teammate Andrey Amador for company for the seven-stage race. The Costa Rican finally joined INEOS after a protracted wrangle with his old team Movistar and makes his season debut.

Although Israel Start-Up Nation has yet to confirm a lineup, Canadian Alex Cataford is in the running. He started his season in Australia, where he raced seven days and achieved 15th in the Jayco Sun Tour, the best on his mostly-Canadian team.