Before it steps up to WorldTour level next year and moves from October to February, the Abu Dhabi Tour unveiled a second edition of the race that closely follows the formula of the first.
Newly-crowned Olympic road race champion Greg van Avermaet, Giro d'Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali, four-time 2016 Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish, and Olympic omnium champion Elia Viviani are among the big names to have confirmed their places on the start list. Last year's winner Esteban Chaves, however, will not be back to try for the double.
The route, teams, and jerseys for the race, set to take place between October 20-23, were officially presented on the emirate's Corniche on Tuesday, and there will once again be three flat stages and one summit finish.
Abu Dhabi will again play host to the UCI Cycling Gala event, the end-of-season bash held for the first time last year, though this time it will take place before the race, and there'll be a clash with ASO's unveiling of the route for the 2017 Tour de France in Paris on October 18.
The Abu Dhabi Tour Route
With the Abu Dhabi Tour organisers making few changes from the inaugural edition, the race again opens with two flat stages – one in the desert and the second in the city and around the Corniche – before another summit finish on Jebel Hafeet and the finale on the YAS Marina circuit – famous for hosting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Formula 1.
The opening stage is likely to culminate in a bunch sprint but the riders will clock up a fair bit of elevation gain in the undulating dunes. The peloton will head out from Madinat Zayet for 45km on straight roads, and will head back the same way after a short circuit and intermediate sprint at the oasis of Liwa. Once back in Madinat Yayet they'll cross the finish line and embark on a 14.5km circuit, where the sprint trains can get themselves organised.
The second stage takes place in the city and will take the riders out to Yas Island and Reem Island. The roads are flat and wide, though there is a fair bit of road furniture, and after just 115km a bunch sprint will be contested on the largely untechnical Corniche roads.
The third stage is again the one that will shape the overall classification with a repeat of the Jebel Hafeet summit finish, where Esteban Chaves took advantage of a Woet Poels mishap to take command of last year's race. The stage starts out on the urban roads of Al Ain but soon heads into the desert and towards the final climb – the second highest point in the emirate at 1025m. The climb is 10.8km long, mostly at 8-9 per cent but with gradients that enter the double digits in places. The average gradient is given as 6.6 per cent as it eases towards the top – even dipping down in the final kilometre before another kick up to the line in the final 250 metres.
The final stage is once again the showpiece, taking place in the evening under the spotlights and on the smooth and zippy tarmac of the YAS Marina Circuit. The riders will cover 26 laps of the 5.5km track to bring up 143km, with three intermediate sprints ahead of the real deal at the end.
Teams and jerseys
There will be 11 WorldTour teams on the start line this year, one up from last year. Etixx-QuickStep, who were not invited to ASO's Tour of Qatar this year, won't be on the start list this time, while Katusha also make way, with Lotto Soudal and Trek-Segafredo set to make their debuts in the race.
Team WIGGINS are again among the Continental outfits, while there will be four new Pro Continental teams in CCC, Gazprom-Rusvelo, ONE Pro, and Wilier-Southeast.
The jerseys are unchanged from last year and represent the colours of the UAE flag. The leader of the general classification will wear red, the best young rider white, while the black is for the intermediate sprints and green for the points classification which will go to the best finish-line sprinter.
Esteban Chaves won the race last year and also took the white jersey, with Elia Viviani taking two stages and the green jersey and Alessandro Bazzana winning the black.
Astana Pro Team (Kaz)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Lotto Soudal (Bel)
Movistar Team (Esp)
Team Dimension Data (Rsa)
Team Giant - Alpecin (Ger)
Team Sky (GBr)
UCI Professional Continental Teams
CCC Sprandi Polkowice (Pol)
ONE Pro Cycling (GBr)
Wilier Triestina - Southeast (Ita)
UCI Continental Teams
Nasr Dubai (UAE)
Minsk Cycling Club (Blr)
Team WIGGINS (GBr)