They say dream big, and organisers of the UAE Tour are certainly doing that in the lead-up to the second edition.
They hope the race – the only WorldTour race held in the Middle East – will one day become as elite as the Grand Tour events, cycling’s championed triple crown of Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana.
Now, achieving those ambitions might be slightly more arduous. But the overriding feeling is that the second UAE Tour, taking place between February 23-29 next year, and future tours will exponentially grow to be bigger and better.
“I hope we can manage to bring always the best riders and experience new places. We have built a very competitive race, and it will be more so this year,” said Fabrizio D’Amico, UAE branch manager of race organisers RCS Sport, at the official launch of the 2020 race in Dubai on Monday.
“We are the only WorldTour race in the Middle East and we want to be the best, the number one. We want to be on top along with the Grand Tours.
“Getting better and bigger. Try to attract riders who weren’t here last year.
“Unfortunately, Chris Froome got injured and couldn’t make it last year and then missed the Tour de France.”
RCS are synonymous with cycling in the Emirates. They and the country are preparing for the second staging of the UAE Tour but they were originally behind the previous Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours, first staged in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
RCS, local organisers like the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Sports Councils, as well as the establishment of the UAE’s very own WorldTour team, UAE Team Emirates, have all helped cycling make its mark in the country.
And D’Amico is focusing on maintaining the legacy that has been created.
“2020 is a new challenge, a new chapter,” added the Italian.
“What we did until now is just a start point. We started with the Dubai Tour in 2014 and the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2015.
“We came under one umbrella in 2018 and last year launched the UAE Tour first edition and I think it was a great success.
“We brought all the best riders here in the world. Sometimes you don’t even find them together at the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia. We are in a very particular part of the calendar just before the big European races next year.”
The second edition will retain many of the first event’s characteristics, and build upon this with even greater public involvement and a new route that will see the riders start in Dubai and finish a week later in Abu Dhabi.
Along the way the race will visit all seven Emirates – Dubai, Fujairah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah – showcasing the natural landscapes and other beautiful aspects of the UAE.
“With the new route we want to showcase new landmarks and to show the UAE is only Dubai or Abu Dhabi,” added D’Amico. “But there are other beautiful places such as Khorfakkan, the Al Dhafra region and Hatta Dam.”
More details will be announced in the coming months, including the official jerseys and the complete route, as well as the full list of riders set to compete.
The first edition was won by Slovenian Jumbo-Visma rider Primoz Roglic, one of 140 riders competing in all, with all 18 WorldTour teams represented. Ex-world champions Alejandro Valverde, Rui Costa and Michal Kwiatkowski were in the field, along with previous Grand Tour winners Tom Dumoulin (2017 Giro) and Vincenzo Nibali (2013 and 16 Giro, 2010 Vuelta and 2014 Tour de France) and a global roster of top-class riders such as Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan, Fernando Gaviria, Dan Martin and Elia Viviani.
Rather than simply showcase the UAE and bring the world’s best riders here though, D’Amico insists establishing and developing a cycling legacy in the Emirates is also a major factor.
“We’ve reached 2,000 kids between eight-12 with the school programmes, embracing 1,000 riders,” he said.
“We want to double the numbers though. We are not just for the professional riders, we want to embrace UAE communities and people living here.
“What we have seen in terms of impact over the years is many facilities being built, like the Al Qudra and Al Wathba cycle tracks, as well as one on the Palm. We have new bars and cafes dedicated to cycling. Our aim is to bring the community together and go to where people are.
“When we first started this, no-one knew what cycling was. They were forced to watch it because they were stuck in traffic. Now they are coming to cheer the riders along the route.”
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