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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The battle for the yellow jersey at next year’s Tour de France will conclude with a time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles before the traditional sprint stage in Paris.
Organisers ASO on Tuesday unveiled a route which visits all five mountain ranges in France, short on sprint opportunities and designed to favour attacking riders.
Though the 36 kilometre battle against the clock on stage 20 may come to define the race, it is the only time trial in the entire three weeks with the focus instead on medium and high mountain stages.
There will be no return to either Alpe d’Huez or Mont Ventoux next summer and only two stages in the traditional battleground of the Pyrenees, but the Massif Central and the Alps will play a key role before a final phase in the Jura and Vosges.
Chris Froome was in Paris to hear the details, and was quick to note the lack of time trialling and a route which may well be more suited to his Ineos team-mate and the defending champion Egan Bernal.
“It’s the hardest route I’ve seen in the last few years,” Froome said after the announcement.
Four-time champion Froome, who missed this year’s Tour after suffering huge injuries in a high-speed crash at the Criterium du Dauphine in June, is ahead of schedule in his recovery and targeting a return to the race.
The uphill time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles promises to be one of the most hotly anticipated in recent years.
Stage six of this year’s Tour finished on the mountain with Dylan Teuns taking the stage victory as Julian Alaphilippe lost the yellow jersey, albeit temporarily, to Giulio Ciccone while Geraint Thomas put in an impressive late attack.
But that time trial will feel a long way off for riders as they tackle one of the toughest opening weeks of the Tour in several years.
The 2020 edition will begin on June 27 with two stages starting and finishing in Nice, including a tough second day which includes almost 3,700 metres of climbing.
Summit finishes on the Orcieres-Merlette and Mont Aigoual follow on stages five and six before two days in the Pyrenees.
After a rest day in La Rochelle there are some flatter stages but it is a brief intermission before the race heads towards the Alps via the Massif Central once more.
Stage 15 takes the riders out of Lyon and over the Selle de Fromental and Col de la Biche to the summit of the Grand Colombier.
The queen stage follows the second rest day, 168 kilometres between Grenoble and the newly-built cycling route to the summit of the Col de la Loze, via the Col de la Madeleine.
Following the adverse weather which severely affected the final days of this year’s Tour, when Bernal took yellow as stage 19 was curtailed by landslides, the Tour will not head to Paris direct from the high mountains but instead travel north via the Jura and Vosges regions.
Those are home roads for French hopeful Thibaut Pinot, who said: “It’s a wonderful course, I’m already looking forward to it. We’re going to pass my village, that will be special.”
La Course, the women’s race which takes place during the Tour, will return to Paris for the first time since 2016.
The peloton will cover 13 laps of the city circuit for a distance of 90 kilometres.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Mads Pedersen was crowned world champion in rain-sodden Harrogate as the UCI Road World Championships concluded with a brutal day’s racing on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Dane beat Matteo Trentin and Stefan Kung as the elite men’s road race, 261 kilometres of arduous toil in the cold and wet Yorkshire Dales, came down to a much-reduced sprint on Parliament Street.
Trentin was the first to open up as they came past Betty’s Tea Rooms but the Italian had gone too soon as Pedersen swept past him to claim the rainbow jersey by a comfortable margin.
Gianni Moscon came in fourth ahead of three-time former world champion Peter Sagan, a further 26 seconds back.
Tao Geoghegan Hart was the highest-placed British rider, crossing the line 26th as part of a group a little over two minutes down, after team leader Ben Swift was dropped on the final lap.
The decisive moves were made with around 35km remaining, as pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel and Trentin bridged over to a Kung, Pedersen and Moscon.
The five-man group had a lead of 47 seconds as they began the final lap, but Van der Poel soon cracked.
Moscon was next to go as Kung drove on the pace, leaving the trio to contest the medals.
Whichever rider emerged from this day with his arms in the air would be a worthy winner given the horrendous conditions.
Organisers announced early on Sunday that the route would be cut by 19 kilometres to 261km, bypassing the key climbs of Buttertubs and Grinton Moor as flooding struck roads made famous by the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France.
Cutting out the two climbs did little to alleviate the difficulty of the day, reducing the amount of climbing from 3,808 metres to a mere 3,394m.
And with heavy rain falling, coupled with strong winds, this was a true survival of the strongest.
An early breakaway including Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic and Colombian star Nairo Quintana ploughed through deep standing water on after the summit of the Cray climb in a stark illustration of the conditions.
That break was soon caught once they began the first of nine laps of the 14km finishing circuit as the intensity stepped up, just at a point when Belgian hope Philippe Gilbert was caught in a crash which would soon see him abandon.
But the main cause of attrition was a combination of cold and fatigue as every lap saw more riders climb off, with only 46 of the 197 starters making it to the end.
Defending champion Alejandro Valverde climbed off with 100km to go, with Britain’s 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas another to give up early as only Geoghegan Hart and Swift survived from the six British starters.
“It was as expected, really,” said Thomas, who had withdrawn from Wednesday’s time trial due to concerns over his condition.
“Wet. Cold. And not quite the feeling in the legs that I hoped for. It was a tough day out there.
“It was kind of what I was expecting. I’d come here to ride for the boys. It’s not a nice feeling – in a home World Championships you want to be right up there in the thick of it. It is what it is.
“We rode well together. The atmosphere, the crowd was really good. This is something we’ll remember for sure.”
Provided by Press Association Sport