ABU DHABI // Just one year old, the Abu Dhabi Tour is already aiming to become one of the leading road cycling events on the international circuit.
The tour returns a second time this October as Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) said it has made an application for the race to gain UCI World Tour status.
The application, an official said however, is part of “a long journey” and discussions between ADSC and world cycling’s governing body will continue through the year.
The UCI World Tour is essentially the top-level series of men’s races which this year include 27 different events as well as the three Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana.
“[It was] one of the things that has been in our planning from the very first day that we talked about the Abu Dhabi Tour,” said Aref Al Awani, the ADSC general secretary.
“We are in continuous discussion with UCI to go for the World Tour. Most of the requirements are there and they are satisfied with our race. But this is a long journey. During the race we can have another meeting and see from there. There is already an application but it is a long journey.”
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Earlier this month, UCI confirmed that the tour had been upgraded to 2.HC status, from the 2.1 it began with when it debuted on the UCI Asia circuit last year.
That means it is now just one level below the World Tour races, and well placed to attract an even stronger field this year.
The UCI is in the process of carrying out reforms on the World Tour, some of which include expanding the calendar into regions of the world not known for cycling tradition but which provide scope for growth.
Brian Cookson, the UCI president, was in Abu Dhabi yesterday at an Abu Dhabi Tour event that took stock of last year’s achievements.
He did not comment on Abu Dhabi’s application and only confirmed that the UCI was in “an appraisal process at the moment”, but it was going to “expand and develop the World Tour” next year.
“Everyone wants to see cycling become more international, to spread it around the world,” Cookson said. “At the same time we want to protect the great events that have given cycling the heritage that it has, the Giro, the Tour de France, the Classics.
“Those are always going to be really important. But there is huge potential to spread cycling around the world, like the Gulf, like Africa, like South America and Asia. Those are places we want to be with the World Tour. It’s got to spread around the world. We’re absolutely determined to make that happen.”
The season-ending second Abu Dhabi Tour will take place from October 20-23 this year, later than the early October dates last year. That is because the World Road Championships will be taking place in early October in Doha, Qatar this year.
The tour will again be a four-stage race, ending – to popular demand from last year’s participants – at the Yas Marina Circuit once again this year.
The other three stages will also be held in the same locations as last year, which means that cyclists will return to the arduous climb of Jebel Hafeet as well.
But Al Awani said the routes within those locations will be different this time. Those will be revealed in September, alongside the jersey unveiling.
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