The route of the inaugural four-day Abu Dhabi Tour has been revealed during a spectacular presentation, with the October race also set to host an international Cycling Gala to celebrate the completion of the 2015 WorldTour.
The Abu Dhabi Tour is on the Asia calendar and is ranked 2.1 under UCI rules. However, it is rumoured that the race could replace the Tour of Beijing as a possible final stage race on the WorldTour calendar in years to come. The Abu Dhabi Tour will be the second major race in the United Arab Emirates and the fourth in the Gulf region after the early season Dubai Tour, the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman.
During the presentation it was revealed that the final stage on the Yas Marina will be a twilight stage, just like the Grand Prix that ends the Formula 1 season. The circuit is already used for cycling, with hundreds of riders training on the circuit twice a week. 18 teams will be invited, including a UAE national team. The four race leader jerseys were not unveiled because their colours will be linked to the eventual jersey sponsors.
Aref Hamad Al Awani, the General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, revealed in a press conference after the presentation that they are considering the creation of a women’s race for the future.
He also confirmed ambitions to see the Abu Dhabi Tour on the WorldTour calendar in the future but said the race is not in competition with the Dubai Tour held in February. He said announced that Abu Dhabi would host what it described as an “international Cycling Gala” on the final evening of the race “to celebrate in a glittering atmosphere the completion of the WorldTour calendar and the narrative of the 2015 cycling season and its stars.”
“We’re confident we can convince the UCI to include the race on the WorldTour. We will meet whatever conditions are requested from the UCI,” Aref Hamad Al Awani said.
“We chose October because don’t want people to think we are competing with Dubai. We respect their race and so we have to give it space. Our event calendar between December and March is also very busy. We think that choosing October gives some added value to cycling. We’ve suggested some new initiatives but its better to wait for the UCI to announce them. However we want to create a gala dinner to celebrate what happen during the whole year. The races are all separate events but the riders deserve to be celebrated, with awards for the best team, the best sprinter, etc. We have a lot of ideas and we’ll announce them later with the UCI.”
The road to 555
The race will be held between Thursday, October 8 and Sunday, October 11, the weekend after Il Lombardia, with the final stage on the same day as Paris-Tours. It will be organised by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the UAE Cycling Federation in partnership with Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport. The race route will cover a total of 555km with three flat stages and a mountain finish to Jebel Hafeet. The climb to the finish line is 11km long and climbs over 800 metres of elevation, with one point of the climb at 12 per cent. The race has been dubbed “The road to 555” due to the total race distance of 555km and "The ultimate race” because it brings down the curtain on the major race calendar.
“There's three sprint stages, which obviously bodes well for myself and Etixx–Quick-Step team. And even the one stage that is more suited for climbers, we’ve got guys who can do well there, so Etixx–Quick-Step and myself will be looking to go there and do well,” he said
“I love the Emirates and the people have been very, very welcoming. I know Abu Dhabi is going to put on a splendid show for the Abu Dhabi Tour in October. I can’t wait to come and ride the Abu Dhabi Tour. Hopefully my team gets an invitation!”
Stages in the desert and along the coast
The four stages will visit different parts of Abu Dhabi, touching the coastline but also the inland desert area.
Stage 1 is over 175km and passes along the edge of Rub al Khaki desert between Qasr Al Sarab to Madinat Zayed, meaning winds could be a factor. It includes 1200m of climbing and ends with a 15km circuit of Madinat Zayed.
Stage 2 is only 130km long and visits much of the city centre. The start is at Yas Marina, which hosts the annual Formula 1 Gran Prix. A loop takes the riders past the massive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque before heading back on itself for a loop via the islands north of the city. It passes the new Guggenheim Louvre museum before a twisting 7.6km circuit around Marina Island that is covered five times
The stage 3 mountain finish will no doubt shake up the overall classification. It is only 140km and pan flat for most of the day but ends with an 11km climb that has an average gradient of 7.5 per cent and has one corner at 12 per cent. There is a 1.5km descent before a final climb to the finish.
The inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour ends with a 110km circuit stage around the Yas Marina motor racing circuit. The riders will cover 20 laps on the flat but twisting circuit, with intermediate sprints spicing up the racing.
International Cycling Gala to celebrate WorldTour
Like the other Gulf races, Abu Dhabi has decided to create a major professional cycling race to help promote the region. Abu Dhabi will also host major tennis, golf, cricket and shooting events in 2015. The state-owned investment company bought the Manchester City soccer team in 2008, turning around the clubs fortunes and winning the Premier League title in 20012 and 2014 thanks to a massive investment and development programme.
“Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is also, and increasingly, an international capital for sport, hosting a great many world-class events. In recent years, cycling has been the focus of great development in the United Arab Emirates and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council is proud to expand its portfolio of events with a race whose future is certain and whose potential is unlimited,” Aref Hamad Al Awani said.
“The Abu Dhabi Tour will show fans around the world the beauty of our country, whether celebrated assets like the Yas Marina Circuit-F1 and the city skyline, or hidden treasures like the oases at Liwa and Qasr Al Sarab, the town of Madinat Zayed and the Jebel Hafeet mountain at Al Ain. Our race is well-balanced, with a true mountain stage, where the overall winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Tour is likely to emerge, and three flatter stages where pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish will compete until the very last metre of the Yas Island Circuit.
Lorenzo Giorgetti, the CEO of RCS Sports and Events, based in the UAE, is responsible for the race organisation. The Abu Dhabi Tour further boosts RCS Sport’s profile as a major race organisers, as talks continue on major reforms of the WorldTour calendar and structure.
“We are really proud to be in Abu Dhabi today with our partners and race organisers, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the UAE Cycling Federation, to present the race route of the first Abu Dhabi Tour and to show that the development and implementation of this new event is now moving forward in the best direction and with mutual satisfaction, Giorgetti said during the presentation
“RCS Sport is a worldwide leader in the production and distribution of cycling events, and today we are delighted to see and participate in the growth of cycling in the United Arab Emirates. I am sure that the new-born Abu Dhabi Tour, part of the UCI Asia Tour, will have a huge impact on cycling all over the world.