DUBAI // Some of cycling’s biggest stars, including Mark Cavendish, “the fastest man on two wheels”, are scheduled to take part in the inaugural Dubai Tour next year as the emirate joins the international racing calendar for 2014.
Cavendish, named the Tour de France’s best sprinter of all time by French newspaper L’Equipe in 2012, will take on the likes of reigning road race world champion Rui Costa, the 2013 UCI World Tour ranking topper Joaquin Rodriguez, Swiss great Fabian Cancellara and the fast-rising Slovak Peter Sagan across the four stages of the Dubai Tour, set for February 5 through 8.
These stars will be part of the 11 International Cycling Union (UCI) teams who will be competing for the €220,000 (Dh1.11 million) in prize money alongside the top three teams of the 2013 UCI Asia Tour, the UAE national team and the SkyDive Dubai team. Each team will have eight riders.
“We are pleased to host the inaugural Dubai Tour 2014 as it puts the spotlight on Dubai as a hub for important international sporting events,” said Saeed Hareb, chairman of the Dubai Tour high committee yesterday.
A three-year deal is in place for Dubai to host the event. The Dubai Tour, organised by Dubai Sports Council in partnership with Italian firm RCS Sport, will start with a 10-kilometre individual time trial on February 5, while the 122km second stage will wind across the city, starting from the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC and finishing at the Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeirah.
On February 7, the 16 teams will battle on the 164km Nature Stage, starting from DWTC and finishing in Hatta, passing through Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah along the way. On the final day, the cyclists will sprint around some of the city’s best-known landmarks in the 124km Old Dubai Stage before finishing at the Burj Khalifa.
“I am sure the inaugural edition of the Dubai Tour will not only play a significant role in bringing high-level cycling to Dubai, but will equally act as an important showcase for the city,” said Brian Cookson, president of the UCI, the sport’s world governing body.
The Dubai Tour is one of the first events on the UCI calendar to be held almost entirely in one city. Lorenzo Giorgetti, the commercial director of RCS Sport, which also organises the Giro d’Italia, believes that will be the unique selling point of the event.
“This is a very new concept and only a city like Dubai could afford to take on this challenge and organise such a logistically complicated event,” he said.
“If you are the king of the mountains, then this is going to be a very difficult circuit for you. But if you are good at sprints, then you will be one of the favourites. So people like Cavendish should be looking forward to this race.
“The cyclists are really excited about the race. Dubai is a perfect destination in terms of hospitality and it is close to Qatar and Oman, which will be the following events on the Asian Tour calendar. It is also good for the cyclists, because all the stages will start from the same place [DWTC] and they will be staying in one hotel.”
In the coming years, though, that could change as the organisers have plans to add more stages and spread the Tour around the country and possibly neighbouring nations.
“In the future, we are definitely looking at an event that covers the whole country,” Hareb said. “Our plan is to start here in Dubai and gain experience on the organisational side, because this is a new sport. In the coming years, we hope to have stages in different parts of the UAE and possibly have a link-up with Qatar and Oman.”