‘The future looks bright this year’ - Arvid de Kleijn on his UAE Tour near misses and the next step for Tudor Pro Cycling

After three second places finishes, the Dutch rider explains that his team are satisfied with their results in the Middle East

It’s fair to say that, for many, Arvid de Kleijn and Tudor Pro Cycling would not have been at the top of the list of sprinters expected to podium consistently throughout the 2024 UAE Tour. The calibre of fast men at this year’s race has meant one of the strongest fields in decades – many sprinters were attracted to the event because it offered five sprint opportunities throughout the week, a perfect chance to dial in lead out trains ahead of bigger goals later in the season.

The likes of Mark Cavendish, Fabio Jakobsen, Dylan Groenewegen and Tim Merlier were the riders making headlines before things kicked off on Monday, but the wide, flat roads in the Middle East have given others with slightly lesser palmarès a chance to shine, too.

De Kleijn and Tudor Pro Cycling might not have secured a stage win this week with Tim Merlier dominating three of the sprint stages and Olav Kooij winning one of them, but note should be taken of the team’s impressive string of results. De Kleijn has finished in second place in three out of the five stages of this year’s UAE Tour – it may not be the top step of the podium, but these performances still shine a light on the 29-year-old’s supreme sprinting talent.

“If there are four sprints and you come second three times, I think you can call it a pretty successful week, especially as a ProContinental team,” De Kleijn said to Rouleur a few moments after the fifth and final sprint opportunity of this year's UAE Tour. “You know that in one or two sprints you’re not going to be there, because there are so many good guys here who are really focused on the sprints. There are more sprinters here than in the Tour de France, also bigger sprinters, so it’s super hard, high-level sprinting. If we can do this here, then the future looks bright this year.”

The UAE Tour is not the first taste of success that De Kleijn has had in his career so far. When the 29-year-old moved to Tudor Pro Cycling in 2023 due to his former team, Human Powered Health, closing, Kleijn’s progress skyrocketed as he took wins at Milan-Torino and the Tour of Langkawi, making a total of six victories for the Dutchman in 2023. De Kleijn puts his success with Tudor largely down to the Swiss outfit’s openness to placing so much focus on winning sprints, when other big teams are moving away from having a star fast man, instead focusing on all-rounders and GC leaders.

“Sprinting was a big focus [this winter]. We have another sprinter now in the team and it’s nice to have him along with me.” De Kleijn said, referencing the arrival of Alberto Dainese to Tudor Pro Cycling in 2024, after the Italian rider moved from Team DSM. “We are both really fast guys and we can push each other. We did some lead outs together and learnt with each other. It's really nice that we did two training camps and figured out a lot of things. We taught each other a lot.”

De Kleijn narrowly finishes in second place to Merlier on the final sprint stage of the UAE Tour (Image: RCS/Sprint Cycling Agency)

Tudor Pro Cycling came to the UAE Tour with a team that was open to learn, but also one that was unafraid to take it to some of the more well-established squads at the race. Over half of Tudor’s line-up at the UAE Tour are under the age of 25, meaning that their experience in the hectic bunch sprints seen is relatively minimal. However, when watching the formations of each team as they slotted into their trains in the build up to chaotic finishes this week, Tudor Pro Cycling was impressively present, despite the younger average age of the team, something that should give them plenty of confidence going into the rest of the season.

“It’s different here to sprinting in general because this is a little bit more hectic than a normal sprint, but it’s good and it is high level sprinting against the best in the world,” De Kleijn explained. “I think every day we did a good job. We were really there and we have such a nice group that can lead me out in the sprints.”

For De Kleijn personally, a WorldTour victory is still missing on the Dutch rider’s palmarès, and this is something that he hopes to rectify in 2024. The UAE Tour has served as perfect preparation for Tudor to test out their collective strength against the world’s best teams, and the outcome is promising for the young squad.

“For the rest of the season I’m hoping for some wins,” De Kleijn laughed. “That’s the main goal. We have a lot of nice races coming up and I think UAE has helped us get in shape for them.”

Cover image: Getty/Christof Koepsel

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