The UAE Tour is set to once again kick off the 2022 WorldTour, organisers RCS Sport have confirmed.
In the absence of the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race for the second year in the row due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the WorldTour calendar will head to the Middle East from February 20-26 for the fourth edition of the week-long race.
Once again, the race will start and finish in the capital, Abu Dhabi, though details of the rest of the route have yet to be released.
Previous editions of the race have been largely sprint-focussed affairs due to the terrain of the country, though the summit finishes at Jebel Hafeet and Jebel Jais have been mainstays and decisive in the overall GC battle. The 2021 race saw the inclusion of an individual time trial for the first time, which was won by Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers).
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Adam Yates (then with Mitchelton-Scott) won the first two editions of the race, while Tadej Pogačar brought home team UAE Team Emirates an overall victory in 2021 after winning the stage to Jebel Hafeet and beating Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) after seven days of racing.
Pogačar is expected to return to defend his title after saying he would make it a "standard" on his early season calendar following his 2021 win.
Last year's race became infamous as the beginning of the end to the early cycling season following an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus among the teams present. The race ended two days early, while multiple teams and riders remaining in quarantine for weeks after the race. Two weeks after the race finished, the season ground to a halt for five months at the conclusion of Paris-Nice.
Next year's race is expected to feature all current 19 WorldTour teams – dependent on the uncertain future of Qhubeka NextHash – while Alpecin-Fenix are also set to return as automatic invitees after once more clinching the top spot among ProTeams. Second-placed ProTeam Arkéa-Samsic could also be invited if Qhuebka NextHash were to fold.
"The UAE Tour has come a long way from the post-COVID pandemic to plan for the fourth edition of the UAE Tour," said Aref Hamad Al Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. "After a challenging but successful 2021 UAE Tour amidst the Coronavirus pandemic we are now looking ahead to host the 2022 UCI WorldTour opener."
Fabrizio d'Amico, the COO of RCS Sports, said that the race has remained as the single WorldTour race in the region thanks to the support of local authorities, adding that it has grown into a week in which top riders look forward to participating.
"The UAE Tour has gone from strength to strength year on year and has remained the one and only World Tour race in the Middle East," he said.
"As we look ahead to the fourth edition, we could not have got here without the tremendous and unwavering support received by the leadership of the country and government entities which were crucial in executing the race during the outbreak or the pandemic earlier this year.
"We are honoured to work hand in hand with Abu Dhabi Sports Council to put this event on and thanks to their vision the race has cemented itself as one all top riders look forward to participating in."
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