Abu Dhabi and Dubai Tours to merge in 2019

Organisers want to create 'bigger impact' with new UAE Tour

The Abu Dhabi Tour and the Dubai Tour are planning to merge in 2019 to form a new UAE Tour, according to a report from The National.

The website reported that a memorandum of understanding was signed by the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Sports Council on Wednesday, calling for a WorldTour race that will consist of seven stages and make a greater impact than two separate UCI races, the 2.HC Dubai Tour and the WorldTour Abu Dhabi Tour.

"It is time to elevate the success we have had from both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Tours to another level," Abu Dhabi Sports Council general secretary Aref Al Awani told The National. "The nature of the UAE has always been to have a united passion. The instructions have come from our leadership that we should utilise the success that we have got as one nation."

Both five-day races took place in February this year, with the Dubai Tour running from February 6-10 and the Abu Dhabi Tour taking place from February 21-25. There was no word Wednesday on where the newly christened UAE Tour would fit on the calendar.

"We have approached the UCI to get the name changed and for the approval for the seven stages," Al Awani told The National. "The only thing that is under discussion is how to fit the race in the best possible time of the year. We usually submit two dates with priority one and two, and it is on the reasonable days of the year when we have a very attractive climate, which is February.

"We want to keep the same February schedule we have had both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Tours," Al Awani said. "The UCI will decide on the dates."

Al Awani said the goal for the race is to include all of the Emirates throughout the seven days of racing.

"This is our aim and we hope that all the Emirates participate in it," he said. "The distance will vary from stage to stage, but in seven Emirates we have more places to discover."

Despite the planned changes, Al Alwani said, there should be little effect on the teams or riders.

"There shouldn't be any impact on the cycling teams coming to the UAE because we will continue to work with Velon to have the success what we had before," Al Alwani told The National. "They are managing most of the teams. We will continue to have our race attractive for sprinters, climbers and time trials. Our aim is to have teams locally and work more to include Continental teams."

Cyclingnews understands that RCS Sport, organisers of the Giro d'Italia and others, is expected to organize the technical aspects of the race on behalf of the UAE Sports councils.

Al Alwani said he expects to get UCI approval soon, and more details will be forthcoming later in the year.

"Tomorrow is the last day to submit our papers to UCI, and so very soon it will be done," he said. "We will have the announcement of how the tour will be like, the new logo, new trophy and dates by September or October. Our aim is to be one of the best races in the WorldTour."

This year was the fourth for the Abu Dhabi Tour, which began its run in October of 2015 but moved to February last year. Esteban Chaves won the first race in 2015, while Movistar's Alejandro Valverde won this year. The Dubai Tour debuted in 2014 and was won by Taylor Phinney, riding for BMC Racing. Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) won the 2018 Dubai Tour.

Al Alwani said combining the races will build on their individual success while expanding media coverage for the Emirates.

"It's not less or more on the financial resources for us, but more impact in terms on the value of the event in terms of the media coverage," he said. "The Abu Dhabi and Dubai Tours were both successful, now the UAE Tour is stronger to create a bigger impact all-round and provide the worldwide television audience to discover new areas and locations in the country."

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