The first – the second edition overall after last year’s debut – will take place a month from now and will see some of the biggest names in cycling take part: 18 top teams with six riders each will compete in the four-stage, 555-kilometre race, including Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador.
More on the Abu Dhabi Tour:
• Osman Samiuddin: Wiggins, Cavendish, Contador and Nibali to battle it out in the capital
• Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 race jerseys revealed: What each one represents
As significant will be the third edition of the race, in February 2017, which, organisers confirmed on Tuesday, will be the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour that will be part of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) World Tour. The upgrade to elite World Tour status represents a remarkably swift rise, given that last year was the first time the tour was held.
Lorenzo Giorgetti, chief executive at RCS Sport, which organises the race alongside Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), said “we are thankful but not surprised” at the Abu Dhabi Tour’s upgrade in status.
“It’s been a long job for everyone, for ADSC, for UCI, for us to be able to bring the race immediately to World Tour ranking.”
Holding two editions in proximity to each other, Giorgetti said, would not be a problem; instead the swift double dose is likely to “grab more attention”.
Of more immediate concern, however, is the four-day race starting on October 20, and preceded by the hosting of the UCI Cycling Gala on October 18. Much of the structure of the course is similar to the race last year: there will be three sprint stages, with one medium mountain climb.
The locations of the four stages remain the same: the first taking in the deserts around Madinat Zayed; the second in the capital city; the third in Al Ain and finishing at the famous Jebel Hafeet; and the last, an evening sprint at Yas Marina Circuit.
Some of the details within the routes are different, such as the start and finish points of the first two stages; in the second stage, riders will go through Saadiyat and Reem Island before finishing at the Corniche.
The jersey colours, which were also revealed on Tuesday, remain the same as 2015 and together form the colours of the UAE flag: the red jersey for the general classification leader, green for the points classification leader, black for the intermediate sprints winners and white for the best young rider.
The field is as strong, if not stronger, than last year, with the addition of Wiggins and Contador, in particular, a real coup. Contador is a two-time Tour de France winner, twice Giro d’Italia winner and three-time winner of the Vuelta a Espana.
The pair will be joined by Cavendish, who is the tour’s brand ambassador and would have raced last year had he not injured his shoulder beforehand.
“It was an amazing race last year which I was sad to miss, but I’m really looking forward to racing this year,” Cavendish said via video link.
Another for whom this will be the first time is UAE Olympian Yousef Mirza. He missed last year’s race while he was on the Asian circuit gaining qualification to Rio de Janeiro.
Mirza will lead the Nasr Dubai team, the only local team in the race in the absence of Skydive Dubai.
“It will be a great experience for Nasr and local riders to race with the biggest riders in the world and we are very proud to be part of this,” Mirza said.
“The Abu Dhabi Tour on the World Tour is a very good step. When something big happens in your country it makes it bigger, you feel prouder than normal. We’re really happy to see cycling growing so quickly here.”
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