Cavendish ruled out of Abu Dhabi race

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Season's over: Mark Cavendish.

Mark Cavendish won’t be competing in next month’s inaugural Tour of Abu Dhabi after he underwent shoulder surgery on Monday, ruling him out for the rest of the season.

Cavendish, who sustained the injury on the sixth stage of the Tour of Britain earlier this month, said: “I tried to ride my bike a few days ago on the road, but I could not put any power out by pulling on the handlebars.

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“There’s nothing I can do now except take a period of rest, and then start with intensive rehab.”

The 30-year-old had told Sport360 last week in Abu Dhabi that he was hopeful of racing in the event, which gets underway on October 8, as he is an official ambassador for the new Tour.

The Manxman also withdrew from the UCI World Road Race Championships earlier this week.

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Mark Cavendish excited by prospect of season culminating at Yas Marina

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Emirati heritage: The jerseys, representative of the UAE flag unveiled.

From the beautiful sand dunes of the Rub Al Khali desert, to the state-of-the-art flood-lit Yas Marina Circuit, the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour next month promises to be a spectacular event, according to star sprinter Mark Cavendish.

The jerseys for the four-stage race, scheduled for October 8-11 2015, were unveiled at Yas Marina, with Tour ambassador Cavendish in attendance.

Each of the four jerseys – designed by Castelli – reflects a colour from the UAE flag with the leader’s general classification jersey being red, the points classification one is green, the best young rider’s is white, and the intermediate sprint classification is black.

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“Bikes and jerseys are an inseparable couple and cycling fans know how important the jersey’s reputation is for the success of a stage tour,” said Aref Al Awani, the secretary general of Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), who are joint org-anisers with Italian company RCS Sport.

“Ours is a choice of identity: red, green, white and black, representing the UAE’s unity and it is important to carry on this context through sport.”

The Abu Dhabi Tour will see riders traverse a total of 555km starting with the Liwa stage which is a flat one predominantly contested in the Rub Al Khali desert, followed by the Capital Stage, which begins and ends at Yas Island but takes the cyclists to the city Corniche and back, the Al Ain stage, which ends with a 12 per cent climb at Jebel Hafeet, and the fourth and final Yas stage which consists of 20 laps of Yas Marina Circuit.

That fourth stage will be a night race, held under the floodlights of the iconic Formula One track.

“It would be an incredible end to a year of cycling. We’ll finish here at Yas Marina Circuit which in itself is incredible, it’s a world famous motor circuit, I’ve watched the Formula One on TV and watched the cars go around, to be able to race here is great, and to do it at night, it’ll be a fitting end to a great cycling season,” Cavendish told Sport360°.

The Abu Dhabi Tour is the latest in a series of endeavours from the UAE government to push cycling forward and capitalise on the international publicity the sport brings to the country.

RCS Sport – also organisers of the Giro – and Dubai Sports Council planted the seeds last year with the first edition of the Dubai Tour and the Italian organisers have now branched out to the capital emirate.

“For RCS it’s a privilege to work with the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Sports Councils. Both are working together to promote the UAE as a country so I think it’s something to be proud of.

"To be one country with two stage races like this in cycling is not something that is very frequent,” said Lorenzo Giorgetti, RCS Sports and Events DMCC CEO.

“I think it will grow the fan base, the community, the amateur scene, the infrastructure… everything around cycling. So this is just the tip of the iceberg then all the rest will be built and this will be just the spotlight, the advertisement of the fact that this country is becoming every day more bike-friendly.”

Thanks to the agreement signed between ADSC and Velon group of WorldTour teams, an A-list field, headlined by Cavendish, is expected to compete in the Abu Dhabi Tour. The full list of participants will be revealed tomorrow with organisers hinting that only “very few” big names will be missing. 

After the final stage, an inaugural UCI Cycling Gala will be hosted by the world governing body  in collaboration with the UAE Cycling Federation and ADSC at the Du Forum where the best riders, teams and national federations in road cycling in 2015 will be honoured.

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INTERVIEW: Mark Cavendish a driving force in UAE cycling boom

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Mark Cavendish won the Tour of Dubai earlier this year.

He started his season by winning the 2015 Dubai Tour at the foot of Burj Khalifa and plans on wrapping up a great year of cycling under the floodlights of Yas Marina Circuit, where the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour will conclude next month.

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Mark Cavendish is clearly a big fan of the UAE.

The 30-year-old Ettix-Quick-Step rider had been a regular visitor to the country on holiday before he competed in the first two editions of the Dubai Tour in 2014 and 2015.

A winner of 26 Tour de France stages – third on the all-time list – the ‘Manx Missile’ is one of the greatest sprinters in history.

Cycling as a sport has been predominantly European but it has been rapidly spreading across the globe in recent years taking a star like Cavendish from Argentina to the UAE to Turkey to California all in one season.

As an ambassador for next month’s Abu Dhabi Tour, Cavendish is happy to play an active role in promoting cycling in the Emirates and says he’s witnessing first hand the giant strides made in the sport.

“To think it was the first Dubai Tour last year in 2014, to come back and see the amount of people out watching it this year compared to last year it was spectacular, I was so proud to win it,” Cavendish told Sport360° at the unveiling of the Abu Dhabi Tour jerseys yesterday.

“Then when I heard the Abu Dhabi Tour is happening at the end of the year I was so excited. I’ve come to the UAE on holiday and to come here it’s a spectacular place and an incredible country.

“Seeing the amount of people watching cycling, see it growing… there’s not just a race being put on, it’s actually with a clear vision for the future for it to grow and to be one of the biggest events in the world that’s really exciting and it’s really something I wanted to be part of.

“I don’t just see it from my own perspective, I’ve spoken to people from the Sports Councils and from the UAE Cycling Federation and I really see what they want to grow, what they want to do with the sport, it really makes me proud.

“It’s really nice to see cycling, which was predominantly a European sport, to see it grow here in the Middle East and across the world, it gives a buzz about it.”

Cycling is one of the most gruelling sports and it sees riders pedal through incredibly unforgiving conditions. There are stages that have steep summit finishes on cobblestone roads, three-week Grand Tours that take riders across several countries covering more than 3,000km and then of course there’s the weather, be it rain, wind, sand or heat – a cyclist just has to deal with it and march on.

With the Abu Dhabi Tour just three weeks away, the temperatures and humidity will definitely pose a particular challenge to the cyclists but Cavendish is unconcerned.

Leader's red jersey.

“We race in south of Europe for most of the summer so it’s the same. The weather in October here is not like the summer here, so I think we should be okay,” he explained.

Cavendish’s real challenge will be his fitness. He crashed four days ago in the sixth stage of the Tour of Britain, hitting a stationary car on the side of the road and falling on his left shoulder – the same one that was dislocated in a crash at the Tour de France last year.

With Cavendish scheduled to compete in the road race at the World Championships on September 27 in Richmond, Virginia, 
before coming to Abu Dhabi for the October 8 start of the new tour, he admits his shoulder might not allow him to take part.

“It’s not great if I’m honest. I’m a bit nervous. Hopefully I can recover and get better to be able to ride here. I really want to ride here but I just have to sort this out,” he said.

On the World Championships, he added: “I am (looking forward to it) if my shoulder is okay. I really don’t know until Friday. But I’ve had great form, I was looking to the end of the season the whole year and hopefully it works out. It’s still more probable than not but we have to make a call about it in the next few days.”

While Cavendish’s crash in the Tour of Britain cannot be blamed on anyone’s recklessness, there have been other incidents in the peloton recently where riders have had their safety compromised by external factors. Acclaimed sprinter Peter Sagan saw his Vuelta a Espana campaign come to an end when he was hit by a motorbike during the Spanish Grand Tour’s eighth stage last month and the Slovak and his Tinkoff-Saxo team were understandably livid.

Does he feel such incidents are becoming more of a problem that requires higher safety measures? “I think in 2015, there are problems that shouldn’t be happening in professional sport,” he said.

For someone who has already accomplished almost everything there is to achieve in cycling, Cavendish does have one thing missing from his resume – an Olympic medal. Originally a track cyclist, Cavendish is eyeing a spot on Team GB’s squad for the Rio 2016 Olympics where he hopes to compete in the omnium.

He made a return to the track last month at the Revolution meet in Derby as well as the Dudenhofen Grand Prix in Germany where he managed to pick up enough points to qualify for this winter’s UCI Track World Cup.

He will need to gather some more points in any of the 2015-2016 Track World Cup events in order to officially qualify for Rio.

“It was nice to go back on the track. It wasn’t specifically with the target of riding the Olympics but at least it gives me the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics. I don’t know what my programme holds next year, but definitely I have many options now which is good,” said Cavendish.

“I do enjoy the track. It’s definitely different. It’s what I grew up doing. Technically we can’t do them both anymore because the UCI segregated them but it’s really nice. It complements road, it’s something different, it’s pure bike racing, it really gives to tactical, to technical and pure bike racing which is great.”

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