Top officials of the UAE Sports Councils during the unveiling of the new combined UAE Tour cycling event in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Abu Dhabi - After five successful years as the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour, the combined, UAE Tour, was officially unveiled
After five successful years as the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour, the combined, UAE Tour, was officially unveiled on Thursday at the Yas Marina Circuit. The only WorldTour race in the Middle East, organised by Dubai Sports Council, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Sharjah Sports Council, in partnership with RCS Sport, is scheduled from February 24 to March 2, 2019.
The inaugural UAE Tour's seven stages will embrace all seven emirates. The first three stages will be hosted by Abu Dhabi, the fourth by Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, the fifth stage crosses Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, the sixth is in Ajman, UmmAl Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah, while the final stage sees a return to Dubai. The 2019 UAE Tour has a total distance of 1,090km with a significant elevation gain of around 4,500 metres, mostly concentrated into stages three, four and six.
18 WorldTour teams plus two UCI Professional Continental Teams are set to start. With each team comprising seven riders, a total of 140 athletes will line up at Al Hudayriat Island for the opening stage Team Time Trial. Among them are some of the world's finest riders including the only two current professionals to have won all three Grand Tours: six-time Grand Tour champion Chris Froome, the Briton - starting a UAE race for the first time - goes head-to-head with his rival the Italian Vincenzo Nibali boasting four Grand Tour titles so far.
Alongside them are such famous names as the 2017 Giro d'Italia winner and former UCI World Time Trial Champion, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin; last year's Abu Dhabi Tour winner and UCI Road World Champion, the Spaniard Alejandro Valverde; 2018's most successful rider and Dubai Tour winner, the Italian Elia Viviani; the UCI Time Trial World Champion, Australian Rohan Dennis; and the double Dubai Tour overall champion and winner of stages at all three Grand Tours, the German sprinter Marcel Kittel.
The new race is a mix of technically different stages, open to all kind of riders, with the all-rounders most likely to win the overall General Classification category. It starts on Sunday 24th February in Abu Dhabi's Al Hudayriat Island with the ADNOC Stage (16km), the very first (and very fast) Team Time Trial opening the Middle East WorldTour race.
The second stage, the Abu Dhabi Stage (184km), will be a tour of the capital, starting in Yas Island and passing through Khalifa Port, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Corniche before finishing at the Big Flag.
The following day, the peloton will start the Al Ain Stage (179km) from the Al Ain UAE University before facing the first UAE Tour peak: the 1,025m Jebel Hafeet, which features a maximum gradient of 11%.
February 27th sees the fourth and longest stage of the UAE Tour, the Dubai Municipality Stage (205km). Its route is a tribute to the classic Dubai Tour "Queen stage", starting from The Pointe - Palm Jumeirah and finishing with the short, sharp rise of Hatta Dam, climbing 200m on gradients ranging from 12% to a maximum of 17%.
The next day, the Sharjah Stage (181km), runs from Flag Island to Khor Fakkan and is likely to culminate in a bunch sprint.
New features are packed into the sixth day, the RAK Properties Stage (180km), when, for the first time, the peloton will ride among the Jais Mountains. 150km after km 0 in Ajman, the climbers and puncheurs will fight for general classification on the 20km-long uphill finish of Jebel Jais, with its 5% average gradients.
The Grand Finale, on Saturday 2nd March, delivers a spectacular parade entirely in the city of Dubai. The Dubai Stage (145km) starts at Dubai Safari Park and finishes at the City Walk district with what is expected to be a bunch sprint.
I'm very glad to unveil such a wonderful race today," said Aref Al Awani, Abu Dhabi Sports Council General Secretary.
"It's the result of years of effort, passion and commitment, and this is definitely what we've been striving for. The world's eyes are on us and we are ready to deliver a world-class sporting spectacle and an unforgettable event. Thanks to the Dubai Sports Council, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Sharjah Sports Council, and to our sponsors and partners, we'll meet this challenge in style," he added.
"We now have a Tour that should challenge every kind of rider, and it involves all seven Emirates! This was always our dream. I am confident we can become an important appointment in the world cycling calendar and keep growing as a sporting event as well as developing the fan base," said Saeed Hareb, Dubai Sports Council Secretary General.
"Being part of this world-class project is a milestone for the Sharjah cycling movement. The two stages Sharjah is involved in are really interesting: stage four ends in Hatta and the course is a well established Middle East cycling icon. And I'm sure that the following day's Sharjah Stage will match up to this very high standard," said Eisa Hilal Al Hezami, Sharjah Sports Council General Secretary.
The UAE Tour jerseys will be provided by one of the cycling industry's leading brands, Castelli, the supplier for both the Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Tours. The four different jerseys are made using a high-tech fabric supplied by SITIP that is both UV-protective and allows for a very rapid rate of heat dissipation. There are four colours, one for each classification, starting with the most prestigious: red, for the leader of the general classification. All four jerseys will be assigned starting from the end of Stage 1.