The 2015 Dubai Tour presented the 16 teams that will contest the event this week with a colourful opening ceremony where the riders, Dubai ruling family member Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, and even cycling legend Eddy Merckx were upstaged by the presence of famed footballer Diego Maradona.
The teams were treated to entertainment by trials rider Vittorio Brumotti and other live performances before taking to the stage for the traditional line-up.
The race is lacking its defending champion Taylor Phinney (BMC) who is still recovering from a serious leg injury sustained last May. He sent his regrets to the race. “I’m sorry I can’t be there for the second edition of the Dubai Tour," Phinney said. "I was humbled and honoured to win the first edition. But unfortunately I’m still recovering from a broken leg. I should be back in a couple of months, and I’m definitely excited to get back, but sorry I’m not there. I wish everybody the best of luck.”
Riders are looking forward to the four stages of racing to shake the winter miles into race fitness. Sprinter John Degenkolb said, “It is good to start racing again. It has been a long winter, I’ve done long days on the bike but without intense work. I’m really happy to be here and do some racing. Hopefully I’ll be involved in some sprints, get in one or two good fights and perhaps get a nice result. I’m in a good mood, it’s nice to be here and to have some fun. The German winter wasn’t very nice, so I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the race."
Mark Cavendish is a step ahead, having already raced the Tour de San Luis. "It’s good to get the early season flowing. No one’s in their July form, it’s about getting the training in, getting some sprints under your belt, and getting the team working," he said.
The United Arab Emirates will field a team in this year's race. One of the riders, Badr Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Alhammadi sees the race as a target for the future. “Cycling in the United Arab Emirates is still very young but I see a big future for the sport here in the coming years," he said. "The government is supporting cycling, and it is wonderful to have a stage race of this quality here, bringing the best riders in the world here. I consider myself very lucky to be able to take part in such a race.”
You can see the full gallery of the team presentation here.