There will be two editions of the Abu Dhabi Tour in the space of four months as the emirate race steps up to the WorldTour next season, and the move has organisers braced for expansion and diversification in the years to come.
As was the case with last year's inaugural edition, this year's race will take place in October, but the race was included in the 2017 WorldTour calendar with a new slot in February.
While the move to WorldTour should ensure a stronger field and enhanced exposure for the race, it's not the new-found status in itself that's getting the organisers excited, but rather the possibilities afforded by the calendar shift.
"The race will change not because it's becoming WorldTour but because in February we have a completely different temperature," Lorenzo Giorgetti, CEO of RCS Sport – who run the race with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council – told Cyclingnews in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, where the temperatures were in the 40's.
Indeed, last year's opening stage had to be shortened due to the heat, and this year there is a modest total distance of 555km across four stages, with the final stage taking place at night under the spotlights of the F1 circuit.
"Going to February is a completely different story. We can have much longer stages. This is the largest emirate of the UAE, we could do 20 stages in Abu Dhabi – there's a lot to show, a lot to see. So from a race perspective we could decide if it's a race for sprinters, for climbers, or anyone, because the territory offers a lot," added Giorgetti.
Giorgetti was speaking at the presentation of the 2016 edition, set for October 20-23, which will follow the same formula as the first with sprint stages in the desert and the city followed by the Jabel Hafeet summit finish stage and then the floodlit finale on the F1 track.
That formula is likely to remain in tact for the WorldTour debut in February as the race adjusts to the new logistical challenges, but the race organisers are keen to explore the full reaches of the potential offered by Abu Dhabi's territory, with new climbs certain to appear in 2018 and beyond.
There is also the likelihood of expanding the race to closer to a week in the future, though Giorgetti described Abu Dhabi as taking a ‘conservative' approach to expansion.
"We should be careful. I have to say Abu Dhabi Sport Council is willing to have this event growing as the movement is growing," he said, referring to the current cycling boom in the Emirates – evidenced that evening when 3,000 people took to the F1 circuit, as they do each week, for an open access evening of riding.
"Abu Dhabi is very conservative – they want to do things best, then later grow as the movement is growing. So it's something that should happen together."
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