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Dubai Tour: Stage 4 modified due to desert storm

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The peloton gets a face full of sand

The peloton gets a face full of sand
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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This sandstorm led to the cancellation of stage 5 of the Tour of Oman.

This sandstorm led to the cancellation of stage 5 of the Tour of Oman.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The peloton is buffeted by a sand storm on stage 2

The peloton is buffeted by a sand storm on stage 2
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders endured a sandstorm on stage 6 of the 2008 Tour of Qatar

Riders endured a sandstorm on stage 6 of the 2008 Tour of Qatar
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

The organisers of the Dubai Tour have confirmed they have modified Friday's stage 4 to avoid the potential for riders to be caught in a sandstorm in the middle of the desert.

The stage will still finish on the steep climb to the edge of Hatta Dam, but riders will cover two loops of a 51.1km circuit to avoid riding through the exposed desert section where the winds are forecast to be strongest. The riders will sign on at the start village at the Dubai International Marina as planned and then travel by car to the new start. The stage will still include the original 12km rolling finale before the uphill finish at Hatta Dam after 109km.

The changes will mean the stage is shorter with more climbing. However, the final steep climb to the finish at Hatta Dam is still likely to shake up the overall classification before Saturday's final flat stage in downtown Dubai.

Mauro Vegni, the head of cycling at RCS Sport, and his experienced staff made the decision to modify the stage after returning to downtown Dubai after Thursday's stage 3 and consulting with local authorities. RCS Sport had to consider the expected weather conditions, rider concerns, television schedules and even prayer times at local mosques.

Weather forecasts are calling for rain overnight with a sandstorm and northwesterly winds of around 50km/h in the desert section of the original parcours for Friday.

RCS Sport and the local Dubai authorities did not want to put the riders at any risk during the severe weather and so decided to confirm change immediately, without hoping conditions would improve on Friday morning. The change allows more time for all parties to prepare for the fourth stage.

A brief sandstorm hit the peloton during stage 3, with winds blowing at approximately 30km/h on an exposed section through the desert. Sand covered the road, making it dangerous for the riders. Fortunately, the conditions eased after just a few kilometres of echelons and intense racing, and the race came back together for a bunch sprint won by John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).

It's not the first time a race in the region has been hit by sandstorms: last year a stage of the Tour of Oman was canceled due to extreme conditions, and the now-defunct Tour of Qatar was frequently blasted by strong winds and sand.

Cyclingnews will have live coverage of stage 4 of the Dubai Tour to Hatta Dam followed by a stage report, photo gallery and interviews.