Cavendish, Kittel and Farrar set to clash in Dubai Tour sprints

A full race preview of the inaugural edition of the race

The inaugural Dubai Tour kicks off the next phase of the 2014 road racing season, as the first of a triptych of warm-weather stage races in the Middle East before the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman.

Race organisers RCS Sport and the Dubai Sports Council have designed a race route that suits the sprinters, with only stage three including two gradual climbs and a descent to the finish.

The racing begins on Wednesday February 5 with a 9.9km individual time in central Dubai. The start and finish is at the Dubai Trade centre, while the turning point for the out and back route is in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa –the tallest building in the world. It will offer a spectacular start to the race, shape the overall classification and award the first race leader's blue jersey.

The opening stage has officially been called the 'Down Town' stage. The 122km long second stage is the 'Sports' stage because it passes many of the sporting arena of Dubai, including the hippodrome, the Olympic pool, the Al Qudra cycling path, the autodrome and the golf club. It finishes with a sea view, on the edge of the Palm Island Atlantis - the palm tree shaped artificial island that hosts a number of hotels and private residences.

The third stage, the longest of the race at 163km, takes the riders out of central Dubai to Hatta, an historic exclave in the Hajjar mountains near the border with Oman, where Dubai residents often spend the weekends to escape the summer heat. It has been called the 'Nature' stage. The final 40km of the stage follows a minor road and includes the climbs from Shawka and Munay that snake through the rocky, barren landscape. Cross winds early on could also split the race, while the final climb tops out just seven kilometres from the finish.

Riders who lose time in the opening time trial will surely go on the attack here in an attempt to win the overall.

The fourth and final 123km stage is called the Old Dubai' stage and visits several iconic buildings of old and modern Dubai, including the Burj Al Arab hotel and the Burj Khalifa -the tallest skyscraper in the World at 830 metres high. The stage follows the Dubai coastline before finishing in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, where a high-speed bunch sprint is expected to bring down the curtain on the race.

Big-name riders stand out in the 128 rider field

16 teams and a total of 128 riders will be in action in Dubai, with some of the biggest names in the sport along with the UAE national team and the Skydive Dubai Continental team.

Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Taylor Phinney (BMC), Adriano Malori and Alex Dowsett (Movistar) are the favourites for the opening time trial.

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Thor Hushovd (BMC), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida), Andrea Guardini (Astana), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) will no doubt clash in the sprints.

Cavendish will reunite for the first time with leadout man Mark Renshaw in Dubai and provisional start lists show that Alessandro Petacchi will also be there to help Cavendish in the sprints.

Other names and jerseys to watch include world champion Rui Costa who will make his debut for Lampre-Merida in Dubai, Ryder Hesjedal, who will compete for the first time since confessing in October to doping during his early career as a mountain bike rider. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will also be in action after their low-key debuts at the Tour de San Luis, while Filippo Pozzato will be part of the Lampre-Merida team and Luca Paolini is in the Katusha provisional roster.

The Dubai Tour will be shown live on Eurosport, Italian RAI Sport 2, and in Australia with Fox TV.

Cyclingnews will have extensive coverage of the race, with race reports, interviews and photo galleries. We will also have exclusive video content from the race.

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