The organisers of the second edition of the Dubai Tour hope the lack of an opening time trial will mean the race is decided by just a few seconds, with the hillier third stage in the Hatta hills likely to spark the only time gaps between the riders and so decide the overall winner.
The four-day stage race will be held between February 4-7 and has been given 2.HC status by the UCI, meaning 11 of the 16 teams will be WorldTour squads, with major teams like BMC, Team Sky, Giant-Shimano and Tinkoff-Saxo all expected to include the race in their early-season programme. A total of 128 riders will form the race peloton. Taylor Phinney (BMC) won the inaugural edition of the race in February. He dominated the opening 9.9km time trial and then defended his overall race lead, while Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won the three other stages.
The Dubai Tour is organised by the Dubai Sports Council and RCS Sport, with Lorenzo Giorgetti the CEO leading the work of the Italian race organiser in the United Arab Emirates.
"I'm convinced that the 2015 edition of the Dubai Tour will be far better than the first edition, for lots of different reasons," Giorgetti told Cyclingnews after the recent presentation of the tougher 2015 race route.
"One of the primary reasons is the teams have now raced in Dubai, seen the race and seen the safety and experienced the excellent logistics. The UCI has also raised the race ranking to 2.HC and that means we can have more and so better WorldTour teams in 2015 and in turn create more interest for the race. Several major teams who didn't ride in 2014 have already said they want to ride in 2015. Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali has confirmed that he will make his season debut with Astana at the Dubai Tour in 2015. There will also be a lot more interest in the event in Dubai because the local organisers have increased their promotion and marketing of the event.
"There's no time trial or prologue in the 2015 Dubai Tour because we're hoping the race will be a lot closer and so much more competitive. We don't want the overall winner to be decided until the final stage. Riders have different levels of fitness and race programmes, so we've opted for a harder, more balanced route with longer stages. The hilly third stage to Hatta will be the key day of racing. It's got double the kilometres of climbing compared to the hilly stage in 2014 and there's the tough uphill finish to the dam wall. The finish might not suit the climbers or Grand Tour riders like Nibali but it seems perfect for the aggressive, explosive finishers like Peter Sagan and Joaquim Rodriguez."
The evolution of professional cycling
The Dubai Tour has attracted Commercial Bank of Dubai as the sponsor of the leader's jerseys with other interest in the UAE for the race. There is huge debate about the Gulf nations organise major sporting events, often to the demise of events with a long history in Europe. However Giorgetti defends the evolution in the professional cycling race calendar and the proliferation of races outside of Europe.
"I think it's right. Countries like the UAE and Dubai are proud to organise major events to attract tourism and business. They've got a clear strategy and a clear objective. Perhaps that's lacking in Europe," he said.
"The economic crisis is a factor, with people cutting back on sport and entertainment in Europe. However I don't think that's the best strategy for the future. Cycling gives massive amounts of visibility to sponsors and host nations but costs relatively little. Dubai has understood that, has grabbed the opportunity and is developing its races quickly. In Europe we've got the tradition and the history of the sport but always seem to struggle much more. It's a pity but its the reality of the current economic situation."
Giorgetti admits that the race is also important for RCS Sport. The Italian company also organises the Giro d'Italia, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Il Lombardia but has killed off several other loss-making races in recent years.
"It allows us to have an important international presence in the UAE. They host a lot of globally important sporting events and their companies also sponsor all over the world. The airlines Emirates and Etihad are just two examples that come to mind. RCS Sport hopes to organise lots of events and we hope to grow even more in the future."