Organisers of the UAE Tour, the new event which combines the Dubai and Abu Dhabi tours, unveiled the route for the seven-day WorldTour race and announced that world champion Alejandro Valverde, Giro d'Italia winner Chris Froome, former Giro winners Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali, and sprinters Elia Viviani and Marcel Kittel have signed on to compete in the race.
The UAE Tour follows the 2.HC Tour of Oman, and will run from February 24 to March 2. The first three stages will take place in Abu Dhabi, with a 16km team time trial kicking off the race on Al Hudayriat Island.
The sprinters will enjoy stage 2, which starts on Yas Island, passing through Halifa Port and finishing at the Big Flag for a pan-flat 184km.
The climbers will come to the fore on the next stage when a flat start in Al Ain comes to an abrupt end with the 14km Jebel Hafeet ascent - the summit finale that formerly punctuated the Abu Dhabi Tour where Valverde claimed the overall win this season.
The peloton crosses into Dubai on stage 4, with the longest stage of the race clocking in at 205km and ending on the steep, short ascent to Hatta Dam that tips up to a 17 per cent gradient.
On stage 5, the sprinters return to the spotlight with a 181km route from Flag Island to Khor Fakkan, crossing from the Emirates Gulf to the Oman Gulf across the desert, before the climbers battle for another summit finish on stage 6.
It will be the first time the pro peloton has visited the Jais Mountains, and they'll want their climbing legs ready for the 20km finish to Jebel Jais at an average five per cent grade. The GC leaders will gladly handover the reins to the sprinters again for the 145km flat final stage in Dubai.
The race, with a total of 1,090km and 4,500 metres of climbing concentrated mainly in three stages will be a solid warm-up for the season for Froome, who announced his participation by video message.
"It should be a fantastic, well-rounded event with a team time trial and two uphill finishes," Froome said. "It should be some exciting racing and a nice, relaxed atmosphere. It's a nice way to start the season, and I'm looking forward to that in February."
There are 18 WorldTour teams set to line up for the UAE Tour, with two Pro Continental squads - each with seven riders for a 140-man peloton.
"We now have a Tour that should challenge every kind of rider, and it involves all seven Emirates! This was always our dream. I am confident we can become an important appointment in the world cycling calendar and keep growing as a sporting event as well as developing the fan base," said H.E. Saeed Hareb, Dubai Sports Council Secretary General.
2019 UAE Tour
- Stage 1: Hudariat Island (TTT), 16km
- Stage 2: Yas Mall - Abu Dhabi, 184km
- Stage 3: Al Ain - Jebel Hafeet, 179km
- Stage 4: Dubai - Hatta Dam, 205km
- Stage 5: Sharjah - Khor Fakkan, 181km
- Stage 6: Ajman - Jebel Jais, 180km
- Stage 7: Dubai, 145km