The 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour will again include the mountain finish at Jebel Hafeet, with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) confirmed for the Middle East's only WorldTour race between February 23-26.
The Abu Dhabi Tour is one of 10 new WorldTour races on the 2017 calendar and has managed to attract 16 WorldTour team. The race ended the 2016 season last October but a new February date has attracted some of the biggest names in the peloton. Race organisers have also invited four non-WorldTour teams: Bardiani-CSF, Gazprom-Rusvelo, Team Novo Nordisk and Nippo-Vini Fantini.
The race's two previous editions were held at the end of the year, with Orica's Esteban Chaves winning in 2015 and Tanel Kangert (Astana) taking out last year's overall.
This year, contenders will include Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Fabio Aru (Astana), making the Abu Dhabi Tour an early-season show down for many of the Giro d'Italia contenders.
The four days of racing include three flat stages, with the finish on Jebel Hafeet coming on stage three.
The opening stage will follow its now traditional route, starting and finishing in Madinat Zayed, and running entirely through the desert with a visit to the sand dunes. Stage 2 is a tour of the capital and visits the Corniche, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, Al Reem Island, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Old Al Bahia and Al Sadar. The probable bunch sprint will take place on Al Marina, close to the Big Flag.
The third stage is the mountain stage, where the climbers will fight for general classification on the 10.8km Jabel Hafeet climb that tops out at an altitude of 1025m. Kangert won the 2016 race on this stage, but he will face serious competition from some of the biggest names in the sport as they crank up their early season racing and look for WorldTour success.
The grand finale is once again confirmed for the iconic Yas Marina Circuit with 26 laps of the fast and wide 4.5km circuit.
The sprinters are expected to fight for victory on stage 1, 2 and 4, with Cavendish and Ewan facing some serious competition from Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors), Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky). Cavendish won two stages in 2016, including the final stage on the Yas Marina circuit.
"It's not a secret: I love spending time here in Abu Dhabi. Riding for my team or on vacation with my family. I love the local atmosphere, the people, and the great places to have fun and relax," Cavendish said at the presentation of the 2017 race route and teams.
"Regarding the race last year I won two stages and I closed the 2016 season in the best way I could. I hope to repeat that in 2017: there are WorldTour points up for grabs and it would be a great sign before moving to Europe. I'd like to win in Madinat Zayed to wear the red jersey again. It would be an honour."