Registration is now open for the inaugural UAE Tour, a seven-stage WorldTour race that starts in Abu Dhabi and ends in Dubai early next year.
The event replaces the Abu Dhabi Tour and Dubai Tour which have been held since 2015 and 2014 respectively.
The new event combines the two events and will see the myriad of pro riders take in all seven Emirates from February 24 to March 2, 2019.
But amateur cyclists can also follow in the footsteps of their favourite riders and compete on the same stretches of roads thanks to the UAE Tour Challenge, a new formula developed from the successful Abu Dhabi Tour Challenge.
The UAE Tour Challenge consists of four races, across which male and female amateur racers contest different jerseys for time and points races.
The UAE Tour Challenge’s first race will be held in Abu Dhabi, at Al Hudayriat Island – the new leisure and entertainment destination which offers two different cycle path loops of 5km and 10km. The 16km Individual Time Trial (ITT) is scheduled here for Friday, January 25.
The second race is planned for the following week, Friday, February 1, in Al Ain and surrounding area.
The course is a tribute to the classic Abu Dhabi Tour “Queen stage” with the finish line at 1,025m above sea level after 11km of climbing featuring maximum gradients of 11 per cent on Jebel Hafeet. There is a choice of two distances: 47km and 67km.
The third race, on Wednesday, February 13, returns to Dubai and the fourth, on Friday, March 1, is hosted entirely by Ras Al Khaimah. Both the courses are still top secret and will be unveiled soon.
Just like the pros, the amateur racers will compete in three different classifications: by time, points and UAE national category by time.
Each classification leader will wear a special jersey – red jersey for time, green for points and white for the UAE national category.
Additionally, for each challenge, there is a special classification that awards 15 seconds (for the classifications by time) or three points (for the classification by points) for the best male and female performances on a particular section.
For the Al Hudayriat Island ITT, it will be awarded for the best time on the final kilometre straight. During the second race (Jebel Hafeet), it’s the best Intermediate sprint after the first three laps before the climb.
For the third and fourth races, the additional points and seconds will be defined in the following weeks.
At the end of every race, the best three men and women of each classification will be awarded: best time, special classification, the best time of each age category, and best time UAE national category.
The final winners by time, points and UAE nationality classification will be also awarded on Saturday, March 2, the final day of the UAE Tour, on the stage at Dubai’s City Walk.
Keen cyclists are welcome to register for all four races of the UAE Tour Challenge online on the official site www.theuaetour.com. More information is also available on Facebook (uaetourofficial), Instagram (uaetourofficial) and Strava (www.strava.com/clubs/theuaetour)
Peter Sagan beat off reigning Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas in a tense three-way tussle to the line to win the Tour’s Shanghai Criterium on Saturday.
The three-time world champion from Slovakia seared to the finish in a sprint with Welshman Thomas, who was second, with Italy’s Matteo Trentin a narrow third.
The Shanghai race was staged for the second time as part of the Tour de France’s efforts to boost its brand in China, a country once known as the “kingdom of bicycles”.
The race involved 20 laps around a three-kilometre (1.9-mile) street circuit that passed the distinctive China Art Museum.
Under mostly clear skies, Team Sky’s Thomas took the lead with three laps to go, with Sagan and Mitchelton-Scott team’s Trentin at close quarters.
After emerging from the trio in a nail-biting finish, the 28-year-old Sagan, of the Bora-Hansgrohe team, said: “I am very happy for this victory.
“I tried to save energy and see in the last three or four laps.
“I saw it was a strong group with Thomas and Trentin.
“The first few laps were a bit bad, but then they became better and better after every lap.”
The star-studded race attracted a decent-sized crowd in central Shanghai.
Bicycles have long been the workhorse of urban transport for China’s masses, but recreational cycling is on the rise as incomes and leisure pursuits increase.
Veteran Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, the newly crowned world champion, triumphed at the Tour’s Saitama Criterium earlier this month in Japan.
Gianetti, UAE Team Emirates’ business manager, believes Aru is one of the biggest talents in professional cycling – evidenced by his 2015 Vuelta a Espana General Classification title, as well as podium finishes at the 2014 and 2015 Giro d’Italia.
The Italian was also fifth at the Vuelta in 2014 and claimed fifth at the other Grand Tour race, the Tour de France, in 2017, where he also won a stage.
But Aru has found himself, generally, stuck in a rut during recent years.
He and compatriot Vincenzo Nibali were rumoured to have clashed while together at Astana between 2013-16 – before the elder Nibali left. That was seen as the switch that would flick Aru’s career back into gear.
Yet he has been unable to truly regain his stellar 2015 form and eventually fell out with Astana himself, leading to the two acrimoniously parting ways after five years in 2017. The Kazakhstan-based team began legal action against Aru following his decision to leave.
His acquisition by UAE Team Emirates was seen as a staggering coup and it was hoped would be the catalyst for a change in fortunes.
Yet his malaise has only deepened, with his debut season in the black, white, red and green of the UAE a struggle – highlighted by him being forced to abandon his assault on a Giro title that continues to allude him after Stage 19.
But Gianetti thinks better is to come from a rider who only turned 28 in July.
“I think what we see this year is not Fabio Aru,” Gianetti told Sport360 in Abu Dhabi last week where the team were enjoying a training camp.
“Fabio Aru is one of the most talented riders in the world. He showed in past years, you cannot win a Vuelta, three-time podium in big tours if you are not a great, great talent.
“But the talent is not lost, the talent exists. We will see completely another Fabio next season. He’s an incredible champion, he will come back.”
Aru, known as the Knight of the Four Moors, said himself he felt as if he was going through an “abnormal” period of his career following a miserable Giro attempt ended an hour into Stage 19 – with the Sardinia native dropping to 27th and 45 minutes behind leader Simon Yates having earlier been inside the top 10. It was a race he had entered as favourite.
“This year, I don’t know, it happens sometime in cycling. In all kinds of sport,” added Gianetti, the Swiss himself a former pro rider who competed at the 2000 Olympics.
“I think it was finally a consequence of some small mistakes. Too much training. I think when you are young and you win so much you will improve and maybe you have a tendency not to fulfill your body development.
“You think you can do more and more and when you train too much, you pay. It appears stupid to say but I think sometimes it’s better to not train enough because you always have time to train, but when you overtrain you take up a lot of time.
“We think what happened with Fabio is this.”