The organisers of the Saudi Tour have confirmed the race will return in 2022, with a date of February 1-5 adding an extra race to the early-season men’s calendar.
The global COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions have forced the organisers of the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race to again cancel their WorldTour races and change the Tour Down Under to a national event.
However the 2022 season is expected to begin with the Clasica Comunitat Valenciana race in Spain on January 26 followed by the Challenge Mallorca races. The Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille La Marseillaise is due to kick-off the French season on January 30.
The Vuelta a San Juan is currently scheduled to go ahead in Argentina between January 30-February 6. The Tour of Oman could also return in 2022, with the UAE Tour due to kick-off the men’s WorldTour between February 20-26. Of course all the races could be affected by the spread and impact of the omicron variant.
The Saudi Tour is managed by Tour de France organisers ASO and they announced the dates of the 2022 race, saying it was “one of the first races for leading teams in the UCI calendar.”
The first edition of the Saudi Tour was held in February 2020, with Phil Bauhaus winning the final stage and the overall classification. The second edition of the race was not held in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but the Saudi Arabian government is keen for the event to return in the early part of 2022.
ASO said the race will take place on a star-shaped course showcasing AlUla, a heritage and culture destination in North West Saudi Arabia. Teams are likely to stay in the same hotel for the whole race.
AlUla is one of the oldest cities in the Arabian Peninsula and home to Hegra, the first Saudi Unesco World Heritage site. AlUla’s history goes back more than 200,000 years and was once at the crossroads of the Silk Road and The Incense Route. The region is opening up as a year-round destination for heritage, arts, nature, and adventure as part of a major development plan in Saudi Arabia.
ASO said there would also be a mass-participation race alongside the men's professional stage race called the Saudi Tour Ride, a women’s race called the Saudi Tour Women Ride, a junior race organized by the Saudi Cycling Federation and children's events.
Before the 2020 race, Amnesty International had urged riders to use their platforms and profile to draw attention to human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
ASO was criticised by human rights advocacy groups, although Amnesty has stopped short of calling for a boycott of an event that it has decried as an example of so-called sportswashing.
"We're not saying that individual riders or teams should boycott the Saudi Tour – we're saying that if they go, they should inform themselves of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about this," Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said at the time in a statement to Cyclingnews.
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