The 2016 edition of the Dubai Tour will return to the Hatta Dam, the 17 per cent uphill sprint where John Degenkolb took a memorable victory this year, as the race looks to consolidate on what it sees as a winning formula in terms of route planning.
The race, one in a series of early-season outings in the Middle East, celebrated its inaugural edition in 2014, won by Taylor Phinney, but organisers scrapped the time trial and increased the total distance across the four stages by 60 per cent this year. What resulted was a dramatic finale at Hatta Dam and a general classification contest that hung in the balance until the final day, whereupon Mark Cavendish came out on top thanks to the bonus seconds for sprint victories.
Organisers were keen to replicate that once again for the 2016 edition, which was unveiled at the Jumeirah Mina A’Salam on Sunday, and which will run from February 3-6. The overall distance will be almost identical to this year – 671 kilometres up from 663 – and Hatta Dam will again be the finish on day three, with the other stages set to culminate in more traditional bunch gallops. The bonus seconds system (10 for the stage winner, six for second place, four for third place) also remains unchanged.
The main novelty for next year is that the race will venture out into Emirates beyond the confines of Dubai, with the first stage finishing in Fujairah, over on the Gulf of Oman, having first past through the Emirates of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah.
The Dubai Tour is the first in a triptych of early-season races on the Persian Gulf – along with the Tours of Qatar and Oman – which allow riders to get into the swing of things in the warmer climes. Dubai, run by RCS Sport, is actually set to outshine its ASO-run confreres next year with a line-up of 10 WorldTour teams, while the other two have seen their count slip from 13 to seven apiece.
“We are not interested in one-off events but in regular annual appointments and the Dubai Tour is part of this vision: thanks to the riders we’re going to show our beautiful territory to the World again,” said Dubai Sports Council General Secretary, H.E. Saeed Hareb.
“Year after year one more secret can be unveiled: in 2015 we climbed the Hatta Dam, in 2016 we will discover Fujairah. But let’s not forget all our traditional and distinctive landmarks.”
The Dubai Tour is something of a logistical dream, with all four stages once again set to start in the same place in 2016 – at the Dubai International Marine Club. The riders can expect temperatures pushing 30C in early February, and also crosswinds as the stage routes switch and turn across the UAE peninsula.
The opening stage may well be the most interesting in terms of scenery, and it also throws up some varied terrain, too. Visiting four different Emirates and passing coastal mosques and fortresses, it will pass through the Silicon Oasis before cutting through the desert dunes that lead to the Hajar Mountains – the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsular. However, the hills shouldn’t be severe or long enough to derail the sprinters, who will have two laps of a 6.6km finishing circuit in Fujairah before going for the line.
Stage 2 is similar – but not identical – to the corresponding stage this year. It ventures out into the desert, passing the Camel Track and Al Qudra bike path before heading for a fast and furious finale on the artificial island of Palm Jumeirah, in front of the Atlantis hotel.
Stage 3 is where the time differences can be made and will have a significant bearing on the overall standings. The route heads out into the desert, where the terrain becomes increasingly challenging in the final 50km, with two climbs and descents. The sting in the tail is of course the final climb up to Hatta Dam, a 200-metre but fiercely steep (up to 17 per cent) drag to the line – who can forget John Degenkolb’s perfectly executed but excruciatingly exerting effort this year?
The Burj stage once again wraps up proceedings on day four, with few changes being made to the route. It’s a city-based 132km course that finishes at the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world.
The jerseys for the 2016 edition of the Tour of Dubai are the same as in 2015, with dark blue for the overall leader, red for the points classification, white for best young rider, and the green, red and black of the UAE flag for the intermediate sprint classification. This year Mark Cavendish won both the blue and red jerseys, while Michael Valgren took the white jersey and Alessandro Bazzana the UAE flag jersey.
The jerseys will once again be made by Castelli, using lightweight fabric supplied by SITIP that is said to provide UV-protection and allow for a very rapid rate of heat dissipation – essential with the high temperatures all year round in Dubai.
The only change is in terms of sponsorship, with the Dubai Health Authority stepping in to take over from Dubai Sports Channel on the UAE flag jersey.
2016 Dubai Tour stages:
Stage 1: February 3 – Fujairah Stage (Dubai-Fujairah): 179km
Stage 2: February 4 – Nakheel Stage (Dubai-Palm Jameirah): 188km
Stage 3: February 5 – The Westin Stage (Dubai-Hatta Dam): 172km
Stage 4: February 6 – Burj stage (Dubai-Dubai): 132km