Venter, Africa's Team take on Abu Dhabi Tour

Jaco Venter, the 2016 South African road race champion, doing what he does best as a 'workhorse' for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT

Jaco Venter will be the lone South African in the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka squad for the Abu Dhabi Tour which starts on Wednesday, 21 September.

Venter, the 2016 national road race champion, will be a key 'workhorse' for Africa's Team during the five stages of this UCI World Tour race, the only one of its kind to be held in the Middle East.

As has been the case for the first three editions of the event, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will start the Emirati race with a well-balanced squad, able to be in contention for all the classifications and during all the stages.

That said, big-name sprinter Mark Cavendish will be the lead rider, not least because the first three stages are all likely to end in mass sprints and the Manxman has already found form during the previous two weeks in the Arabian Peninsula -- in the Dubai Tour and Tour of Oman. The presence of fellow speedsters Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) will test Cavendish's wherewithal and add to the intrigue of the opening few days.

"It makes it a long time racing in the Middle East, but it's an honour to come back to Abu Dhabi," Cavendish told media during the top rider press conference on Tuesday.

"We have a GC team here, I'll be missing my lead out guys who are injured or sick, but I want to be successful."

The speed days will then be followed by an 11km individual time trial on Stage 4 (a first for the Abu Dhabi Tour) and that should suit Steve Cummings perfectly. The Briton will be making his 2018 racing bow this week for Africa's Team but is always among the best in a race against the clock.

Stage 5, with its summit finish as Jabel Hafeet, will bring the 'mountain goats' into contention and Lachlan Morton will be eager to test his mettle against the likes of Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Alejando Valverde (Movistar) and UAE Team Emirates teammates Fabio Aru and Rui Costa, the defending champion.

Meanwhile Australia's sprint supporter Mark Renshaw, Eritrea's Mekseb Debesay and Scott Davies will complete our African Team in the Emirates.

Tsgabu Grmay will be the only other African rider during this week's race, with the Eritrean climber to be seen in Trek-Segafredo colours.