After five successful years as the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour, the new, combined UAE Tour was officially unveiled at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday.
The only WorldTour race in the Middle East, organised by Dubai Sports Council, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Sharjah Sports Council, in partnership with RCS Sport, will take place from Sunday, February 24 to Saturday, March 2 2019.
The inaugural UAE Tour’s seven stages will embrace all seven Emirates. The first three stages will be hosted by Abu Dhabi, the fourth by Dubai, Sharjah and Ras-al-Khaimah, the fifth stage crosses Sharjah, Ras-al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The sixth is in Ajman, Umm-al-Quwain and Ras-al-Khaimah, while the final stage sees a return to Dubai.
The UAE Tour has a total distance of 1,090km with a significant elevation gain of around 4,500 metres, mostly concentrated into stages three, four and six.
Eighteen WorldTour teams plus two UCI Professional Continental Teams are set to start the race. With each team comprising seven riders, a total of 140 athletes will line up at Al Hudayriat Island for the opening stage Team Time Trial.
Among them are some of the world’s finest riders including six-time Grand Tour champion Chris Froome.
The Briton – starting a UAE race for the first time – goes head-to-head with Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin, Alejandro Valverde, Elia Viviani and Marcel Kittel.
The new race is a mix of technically different stages, open to all kinds of riders, with the all-rounders most likely to win the overall General Classification category.
It starts on Sunday 24th February in Abu Dhabi’s Al Hudayriat Island with the ADNOC Stage (16km), the very first Team Time Trial opening the Middle East WorldTour race.
The second stage, the Abu Dhabi Stage (184km), will be a tour of the capital, starting in Yas Island and passing through Khalifa Port, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Corniche before finishing at the Big Flag.
The following day, the peloton will start the Al Ain Stage (177km) from the Al Ain UAE University before facing the first UAE Tour peak: the 1,025m Jebel Hafeet, which features a maximum gradient of 11%.
February 27th sees the fourth and longest stage of the UAE Tour, the Dubai Municipality Stage (205km). Its route is a tribute to the classic Dubai Tour “Queen stage”, starting from The Pointe at Palm Jumeirah and finishing with the short, sharp rise of Hatta Dam, climbing 200m on gradients ranging from 12% to a maximum of 17%.
The next day, the Sharjah Stage (181km), runs from Flag Island to Khor Fakkan, from Arabian Gulf to Oman Gulf, from the desert to the ocean – and is likely to culminate in a bunch sprint.
New features are packed into the sixth day, the RAK Properties Stages (180km), when, for the first time, the peloton will ride among the Jais Mountains. 150km after the start in Ajman, the climbers and puncheurs will fight for general classification on the 20km-long uphill finish of Jebel Jais, with its 5% average gradients.
The Grand Finale, on March 2 delivers a spectacular parade entirely in the city of Dubai. The Dubai Stage (145km) starts at Dubai Safari Park and finishes at the City Walk district with what is expected to be a bunch sprint.
The UAE Tour jerseys will be provided by one of the cycling industry’s leading brands, Castelli, the supplier for both the Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Tours.
The four different jerseys are made using a high-tech fabric supplied by SITIP that is both UV-protective and allows for a very rapid rate of heat dissipation.
There are four colours, one for each classification, starting with the most prestigious: red, for the leader of the general classification.
General Classification: worn daily, starting from stage 2, by the leader of the General Classification by time.
Points Classification: worn daily, starting from stage 2, by the fastest sprinter, who has obtained the best positions in each stage and intermediate sprints.
Young Rider Classification: worn daily, starting from stage 2, by the best young rider born after 1st January 1994 in the overall classification (U25), the name to watch out for in the future.
Intermediate Sprint Classification: worn daily, starting from stage 2, by the rider who gained more Intermediate Sprint Points than any other rider.
Over 2,000 cyclists took part in the ninth edition of the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge weekend with over 230 cyclists coming from outside of the UAE.
Cyclists took part in either the LOOK UCI Gran Fondo, the Spinneys Dubai 92km Cycle Challenge or the Oakley 53km Challenge and over 200 young cyclists took part in the Junior Rides as the cycling culture in the UAE continues to grow.
The annual Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019 and the event has continued to strengthen its offering for all cycling enthusiasts over the years.
Nasser Aman Al Rahma, Assistant Secretary General Dubai Sports Council, said: “The Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge is a key event in the UAE sporting calendar and the number of cyclists taking part from Dubai and elsewhere highlights how popular the sport is and how the cycling community has grown over the years here in the UAE.
“The atmosphere this morning was thriving and none of this would have been possible without the support from Dubai Police, the RTA and the Dubai Ambulance Services – organising this event is a big challenge given all the logistics involved and thanks must go to everyone.”
The younger cyclists also had the opportunity to be part of the biggest cycle challenge in the Middle East. The Prime Medical Junior Rides took place on Thursday at the Dubai Autodrome, with over 200 young cyclists participating in the event.
This year also saw the return of the Mini Challenge, the balance bike course was open free of charge for children aged between 2-5 years old and is the innovative way of learning to ride a bike, with children focused on balancing rather than pedaling and as a result they are more prepared for an unexpected loss in balance.
The McLaren Group has set its sights on becoming “the best in professional cycling” after securing a 50 per cent stake in UCI WorldTour team Bahrain Merida.
McLaren said it wanted to bring its expertise from Formula One and other sports to cycling, working alongside the Bahrain Merida team which was formed in 2017 and is home to 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali.
“Racing, technology and human performance are at the heart of everything we do at McLaren,” McLaren’s chief marketing officer John Allert said.
“Cycling is something we have been involved with in the past and have been looking at entering for some time.
“It is a completely natural fit for our skills and our ambitions and a perfect partnership with Team Bahrain Merida who have the right vision and approach for the future.”
The deal was announced on the same day that Sky said it would end its investment in professional cycling at the end of 2019, leaving the future of Team Sky in doubt.
McLaren, who worked with Team GB ahead of the London Olympics and recently collaborated with American manufacturer Specialized on bike design, said its partnership with Bahrain Merida would focus on technical collaboration, human high-performance, and marketing and commercial services.
Bahrain Merida general manager Brent Copeland said: “McLaren has been raising the bar for technological innovation and sport performance for decades.
“The combination of our passion and vision for Team Bahrain Merida to be a winning team, with McLaren’s expertise and dedication, is the perfect partnership.”