Inaugural UAE Tour adds to growing legacy of cycling in the Emirates, says Saeed Hareb

Matt Jones - Editor 17:36 13/03/2019
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Primoz Roglic won the inaugural UAE Tour.

The successful hosting of the inaugural UAE Tour is further evidence of the country’s ability to stage the biggest sporting events in the world, according to event organisers.

Cycling’s popularity over the last few years in the Emirates has increased exponentially, helped by the creation of UAE Team Emirates – formerly Lampre-Merida – which was made possible by financial backing from the UAE.

It helped the country gain a seat at cycling’s top table, on the UCI WorldTour, in 2017.

The first Dubai Tour was held in 2014 with the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour staged a year later, while the Al Qudra bike track as well as Abu Dhabi’s Formula One track at Yas Marina Circuit, have both become focal points for keen amateur cyclists in the UAE.

This year, the Dubai Sports Council and Abu Dhabi Sports Council joined forces to create the UAE Tour, a bigger and better event that was held over seven days and visited all seven emirates.

Saeed Hareb (l) is secretary general of the Dubai Sports Council.

Saeed Hareb (l) is secretary general of the Dubai Sports Council.

Slovenian rider Primoz Roglic – of Team Jumbo-Visma – claimed victory earlier this month following the culmination of the event after Stage 7 at Dubai’s City Walk.

And after successful, previous Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours, HE Saeed Hareb, secretary general of Dubai Sports Council, believes the UAE Tour was a huge positive for the country.

“I’m really very happy to see this race, especially for the first time under the one flag, the UAE Tour,” he told Sport360.

“This is very, very important, to send a message to the world that we can organise races of this caliber. It’s not individual like before, Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Sharjah. It’s under one umbrella. This has happened and I think everyone was satisfied and happy with the race. This is our aim.”

Many of the top names in cycling competed at the Tour – including Elia Viviani, Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria, Alejandro Valverde, Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali – and Hareb insisted they all preferred the longer, jointly-organised event.

“I met most of them and they are happy,” he said.

“They said a seven-day race is better than shorter days and previous, individual races.

“All the riders had raced before in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and we joined them all together. They knew exactly what to expect. We did our homework. With the police involved and all the volunteers, we worked together.

“Before, we were individual events, there was a gap. Now the riders love the longer race, seven days, it’s continuous. Not a four or five-day event but it’s a longer one and they prefer that.

“It’s more fulfilling and entertaining because the race is not finished on the first day. We made it more balanced. Flat or mountain, this is a good thing.

“In the UAE we have different conditions to other countries but even in a hot country, at this time of the year, we have different conditions. On Jebel Jais it was freezing and long, not easy. This is what the riders wanted.”

Elia Viviani wins Stage 5 of the UAE Tour.

Elia Viviani wins Stage 5 of the UAE Tour.

The race began with a time trial on Abu Dhabi’s Al Hudayriat Island while there were three sprint stages, a mixed Stage 4 from Palm Jumeirah-Hatta Dam as well as two mountain stages.

The Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours have proved hugely popular in recent years and led to an increased interest in cycling, with UAE Team Emirates’ creation and Emirati rider Yousif Mirza on board also adding to the lustre of the sport.

And Hareb hopes the new event will continue to add to the positive legacy being created by cycling in the Emirates.

“I think we will see an increase in the community of cycling. This is big,” added Hareb.

“The government will build more infrastructure and routes because of the race.

“There is already a big area in Al Qudra, where riders can race without cars alongside them. In Abu Dhabi there’s the same thing in Al Hudayriat, where we had a stage.”

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