Stage 4 of the Tour of Dubai has been cancelled due to high winds on the course. The stage had already been modified in anticipation of the weather conditions but, after driving to the new start location, riders refused to begin the stage due to safety concerns.
The stage was set to be decisive for the general classification with the tough finish on the Hatta Dam. The cancellation of the stage means that race leader Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) is much more likely to take home the title for the second season in a row. Kittel currently leads the overall classification by eight seconds over Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo).
"It was a unanimous decision because forecast expect increasing winds up to 65km/h with stronger gusts. Under UCI rules it is not possible to have a short time trial because that would change the original nature of the race."
Winds often play a factor in the races in the Gulf and stage 3 had seen a brief sandstorm that caused the peloton to break up into echelons. However, the local weather forecast predicted that there would be worse to come in the following days, and, following the stage, organisers made the call to amend stage 4. To avoid the exposed desert, the new route brought the riders around two laps of a 51.1km loop before finishing on the Hatta Dam.
Riders and teams headed to the start but it quickly became apparent that they would not be able to avoid the worst of the wind. Videos and pictures from the start showed heavy winds blowing the trees and sand being dragged across the road. The top riders all convened for an impromptu meeting with veteran rider Bernhard Eisel lobbying the commissaires to cancel the day’s racing.
It is not the first time that a race has been modified due to concerns with the wind conditions. In 2015, a stage of the Tour of Oman had its start moved due to large gusts at the start, although it would later be cancelled altogether due to concerns about the high temperatures further inland. The Clasica de Almeria was drastically shorted because of wind conditions, while the finish on Mont Ventoux at last year’s Tour de France had to be brought down the mountain with severe gales battering the top of the mountain.
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