Organisers target major Dubai Tour expansion after successful 2015 event

Whether the Dubai Tour podium was erected this week atop a jagged mountain peak or at the foot of a sky-high skyscraper, the emirate’s growing appetite for cycling has been constantly evident.

Fans line the steets during the third stage of the 2015 Dubai Tour as cyclists ride past. Daniel Dal Zennaro / EPAEPA
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Whether the Dubai Tour podium was erected this week atop a jagged mountain peak or at the foot of a sky-high skyscraper, the emirate’s growing appetite for cycling has been constantly evident.

Organisers want to capitalise on that rising popularity and create an event to rival the ­classics.

All four stages of Dubai’s annual race attracted large crowds, culminating in about 1,000 spectators cramming in to watch Mark Cavendish win the final stage at the base of Burj Khalifa.

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Such has been the growing popularity of the sport in the city, organisers spoke of a three-fold increase in stages.

Saeed Hareb, secretary general of Dubai Sports Council, cited the increase in cycling events around the emirate as proof the enthusiasm is there.

“Our challenge is to be one of the top races in the world,” Hareb said. “There is no end to the possibilities and no end to the dream. If we have organised four stages, it is no different to organising 12 stages. We want to grow from what we have, but there is no hurry.

“We still need more experience before being in a position to take 10 or 12 stages, but that is the objective.

“Cycling is booming in the UAE. When we had a flag-to-flag event from Dubai to Abu Dhabi on National Day, we had more than 1,000 riders take part.

“Now all the projects in Dubai that are being planned are talking to us about building a cycling track as part of their development.”

As well as the Dubai Tour, the city will host a round of the UCI World Cycling Tour when the Gran Fondo takes place on March 20.

The Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge, with 1,600 cyclists, is already the biggest cycling event in the Middle East.

Lorenzo Giorgetti, chief executive of Dubai Tour organisers RCS Sports, said: “Cycling is growing in this country tremendously, but what is more important is it is not growing in the tradition of Europe, but in a completely new manner.

“There are so many amateur races here and if you look at the number of bike shops, this is the proof.”

Cavendish said the impact of the race here can be a major positive on his sport.

“The globalisation of cycling is extremely important for the growth of the sport, but it has to be done right, like here in Dubai,” he said.

“There are other races that didn’t quite work. This one has built from one year to the next and has definitely taken a big step forward.”

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