Madrid finish returns for 70th Tour of Spain

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Grand tour: Alejandro Valverde is one of the favourites to win the Tour of Spain.

The 70th edition of the Tour of Spain will see the race return to Madrid on its 80th anniversary after a break from tradition to finish in Santiago de Compostela in 2014.

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One of cycling’s three grand tours, the gruelling 21-stage race will start with a 7.4 kilometre team time-trial in Marbella on Saturday, August 22 and finish with a parade around the centre of the Spanish capital on September 13.

As usual the organisers have crammed in a number of mountain-top finishes with nine such stages making their appearance in the race for the first time.

The most demanding of all will come in the 138km, 11th stage in Andorra which will encompass six steep climbs.

As well as the team time-trial to get the event started on the first Saturday, there is also a 39km individual time trial through Burgos on the 17th stage.

A final mountain finish awaits the riders on the outskirts of Madrid in Cercedilla on the penultimate stage before the traditional parade through the boulevards of the capital on the final Sunday.

Last year’s winner Alberto Contador is unlikely to try and defend his title as the Spaniard has prioritised the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2015, while Sky’s Chris Froome has yet to commit to the race after his second-place finish in 2014.

Therefore, Movistar duo Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana are among the favourites to battle it out in the general classification, along with Katusha’s Spanish rider Joaquim Rodriguez.

“It is a Vuelta like the previous ones, it is very demanding and has explosive finishes,” said Valverde, who has finished on the podium for the past three years.

“Without doubt, it will be a very nice race to watch for the spectators.

“Those of us who will be fighting for the general classification will need to be very aware every day.”

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Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome set to compete at Dubai Tour

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In the fray: Bradley Wiggins could make an appearance at the Dubai Tour after Team Sky was announced as one of the teams for the event.

World time trial champion Bra­dley Wiggins and 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome may be headed to the UAE next February after their Team Sky was announced on Sunday as one of the teams set to compete in the second edition of the Dubai Tour.

Organisers released a list of 16 teams that will take part in the February 4-7 four-stage race, 10 of which are UCI ProTeams, the elite division in world cycling.

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Joining them will be four UCI Professional Continental teams, one UCI Continental in the form of SkyDive Dubai Pro Cycling Team, and a squad representing UAE national riders for the event’s national selection. America’s BMC Racing Team will be returning but without Dubai Tour defending champion Taylor Phinney, who is recovering from a broken leg, while the Astana crew – despite their recent doping woes – are confirmed along with their reigning Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali.

The Dubai Tour is jointly organ­ised by Dubai Sports Council and Italian company RCS Sport, who are responsible for the Giro d’Italia and who recently announced they’ll be introducing a new end-of-sea­son race, the Abu Dhabi Tour, next October.

Back for a second year, the Dubai Tour has been upgraded from 2.1 to 2.HC (above categorisation, from French hors catégorie) on the UCI Asia Tour calendar.

The inaugural edition last Feb­ruary started off with a time trial, which was won by Phinney, before sprint king Marcel Kittel ran away with the next three stages.

This year, organisers have opted to axe the time trial and have moved the race’s base from the Dubai World Trade Centre to the Dubai International Marine Club.

While the last edition was mainly decided in the opening time trial, the next one should be one for puncheurs (road cyclists special­ised in rolling terrain with short and steep climbs).

In addition to three sprint stag­es, one stage will be finishing with short, sharp climbs with gradients of up to 14 per cent.

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A new professional cycling race comes to UAE as the Abu Dhabi Tour is announced

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Capital city calling: The Abu Dhabi Tour will belong to the Asia Tour calendar.

Cycling in the UAE received yet another major boost after a new professional stage race, the Abu Dhabi Tour, was announced yesterday.

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The Abu Dhabi Tour, organised as a partnership between the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Italian company, RCS Sport, will be a four-stage race taking place from October 8 to 11, 2015.

It is the second professional cycling race to come to life in the UAE within a span of two years, after RCS Sport – who are also responsible for the Giro d’Italia – and Dubai Sport Council held the first edition of the Dubai Tour last February.

The Abu Dhabi Tour will follow in the footsteps of its Dubai counterpart and will belong to the Asia Tour calendar, with a 2.1 categorisation.

The Dubai Tour had the same classification in its inaugural edition in February but has recently been upgraded to 2.HC (above categorisation, from French hors catégorie).

"We are proud to host and organise the Abu Dhabi Tour, which will show to the entire world the most prominent landmarks of the emirate of Abu Dhabi and will bring additional value to the world of cycle racing," said Aref Hamad Al Awani, the general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

"This event is in line with the overall goal of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to develop sport through events that reach the entire community, from the young to families, as cycling does.

"I would like to thank the Government of Abu Dhabi, which will be supporting this event and the growth of cycling by creating the infrastructure to encourage people to practice cycling as a healthy life style choice."

The route of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour will be announced in June 2015 and organisers say that a host of top world cycling teams and their leading riders will be coming to the UAE capital to compete for the race’s first crown.

"We are proud to advise and support the creation of the Abu Dhabi Tour under the guidance of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the UAE Cycling Federation," said Lorenzo Giorgetti, the director of RCS Sports and Events JLT, a UAE-owned subsidiary of RCS Sport.

"This important goal is in line with RCS Sport’s strategy focused on extending its activities towards new international markets. I would like to thank the Abu Dhabi Sports Council for its contribution to growing the value of professional cycling by taking into consideration, since the beginning, all stakeholders’ expectations."

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