The 36-year-old who made his Tour de France debut last year has welcomed the addition of compatriots Allan Peiper and Neil Stephens, who have joined the outfit as sports directors.
“Now because of Allan Peiper and Neil Stephens coming in, as well as nine new riders, it changes the mentality,” he said. “It’s basically a new team this year. Everything has changed within the team, which is a very positive move I think.”
Champion Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria and Belgian Jasper Philipsen are among the new signings and have already put runs on the board for the squad keen to improve its WorldTour ranking. Gaviria has marked two wins at the Vuelta a San Juan, currently underway, and Philipsen one at the Tour Down Under following Caleb Ewan’s relegation on stage five.
The perceived changes are based around modernisation.
“Last year myself, Dan [Martin] and the Norwegian guys were the minority in the team in terms of our mentality, the way we approach racing and what we thought was important. Now with Neil, Allan, the trainers, the team doctors that have come in, we’re the majority.
“It makes it easier for us because we don’t have to fight for specific things that we think are important and other people don’t.”
Sutherland offered food as an example.
“This is what happens with different cultures. Different cultures think about things in a different way, but the way of cycling is more international. It’s changed from the old school Italian or Spanish version. You have to think about silly little things like aerodynamics and nutrition and training becoming way more important. They’ve made a good step in that direction,” he said.
Sutherland is a Grand Tour racing stalwart but competed in his first Tour last year with the team. He is unsure if he’ll line-up in Belgium for the Grand Depart this season.
“Everything changes during the year in every team. The Tour, everyone gets very emotional and stressed about it. I just want to go through and have a good, fun year,” he said.
“It’s not the be and end all but for me. The most important thing is we have the best team possible to look after the specific riders we have there.”
UAE Team Emirates is set to place an obvious emphasis on the inaugural UAE Tour next month, which Gaviria and Alexander Kristoff are named starters for. Sutherland was a late call-up to the Tour Down Under earlier this month with points for that in mind.
“The sponsors want to see the team higher in the WorldTour rankings, especially before the UAE Tour,” he said.
“In the past with this team, and a lot of other teams, you take the young guys to Australia for experience. That’s part of it but they’re also getting results and that’s what we need for the team to start off on a good foot and move forward.”