Abu Dhabi: Two times Tour de France Champion Alberto Contador leads the list of stars who have confirmed for the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour to be held here from October 20 to 23.
Others high profile cyclists include British legend Sir Bradley Wiggins, Abu Dhabi Tour ambassador Mark Cavendish, Olympic Champion Elia Viviani and 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali.
The second edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour, the four-stage professional cycling race organised by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) in collaboration with RCS Sport, will cover 555km over its four-day run.
The race will also be bringing international season to a close just a few days after the October 16 World Championships.
The UCI Cycling Gala, however, this time round will be held before the start of the race on October 18.
Abu Dhabi Tour will get underway with two flat stages dedicated to sprinters, followed by a mountain stage, where climbers and puncheurs will fight for general classification.
This will certainly be a critical stage in deciding the overall winner. The grand finale at iconic Formula 1 Yas Marina Circuit under light was a hit among the riders last year and once again the race will conclude there.
After the success of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour, UCI has also upgraded the race to World Tour status last month. The third edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour will be held exactly four months after this race and will run from 2017 February 23-26.
“We have aimed for the highest standards of accommodation, logistics and sporting competition which is now reflected in the calibre of the teams invited and the riders expected at the start. The success of the Abu Dhabi Tour has been recognised by the fact that this annual sporting event will join the UCI WorldTour calendar in February 2017,” said Aref Al Awani, ADSC’s General Secretary adding, “In addition to the race and the UCI Cycling Gala, we are cultivating several side projects for the development of cycling in schools and among the young. The short-term goal is still to become a world class event but the longer-term focus is to spread the cycling culture, to inspire people into healthy and active lifestyles.”
UAE’s challenge in the Tour will be led by Nasr Dubai in the absence of Sky Dubai and a lot of focus will be on Yousif Mirza, who represented UAE at the Rio Games. “It is the first time I missed out as I was busy to get the qualification for Rio. This is a great opportunity for me to do well. We have some good local and professional riders and we are looking to prove a point here in front of home fans. The weather will be to our advantage and so will be the terrain,” said Mirza, who added that he was keen on showing the world that we have ‘cycling and good cyclists’ in the UAE.
Brand Ambassador and British ace sprinter Cavendish conveyed his message through a video. “Currently I’m racing so I’m unable to be there in person. I have a lot friends there and so I’m aiming race there. I’m at the best of shape and looking forward to racing there,” said Cavendish, who was forced to sit out and watch the proceeding from the sideline during the inaugural edition last year.
Stage 01 — THE ADNOC STAGE / MADINAT ZAYED — MADINAT ZAYED (147 KM)
The first stage runs entirely into the desert, with the first and last parts of about 45km on straight, wide roads. Once in Liwa, first Intermediate Sprint riders will find a short circuit characterised by constant undulations over dunes, adding up to a significant total elevation. After a second Intermediate Sprint passage in Liwa, the second part of the stage takes the riders to Madinat Zayed, where, after one pass of the finish line, a final 14.5km circuit will conclude the stage.
Stage 02 — THE NATION TOWERS STAGE / ABU DHABI — ABU DHABI (Al Marina) (115 KM)
The second stage is mostly in the city. After the start, the peloton will travel on wide roads towards the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and then towards Yas Island with a passage through Khalifa City, where there are several roundabouts and speed humps. After the Yas Island first Intermediate Sprint, the race goes to the Sheikh Zayed bin Highway towards Abu Dhabi Corniche. It follows a route within Reem Island — including the second Intermediate Sprint — then returns to the Corniche finish line. The entire route is on wide boulevards with road furniture constantly dividing the lanes.
Stage 03 — THE STRATA STAGE / AL AIN — JEBEL HAFEET (150 KM)
The third stage comprises both urban surroundings and mountains. The first part, inside Al Ain city, is all on wide roads with roundabouts and speed humps and is followed by a second part in the desert along wide and predominantly straight roads. At 15km to go, the route starts to rise slightly towards the final ascent, culminating in an uphill finish at an altitude of 1025m, following an 11km climb with slopes with an 11% gradient.
Stage 04 — THE YAS ISLAND STAGE / YAS MARINA CIRCUIT (143 KM)
The final stage is entirely on Yas Island. There are 26 laps on the F1 Yas Marina Circuit, each of 5.5km with three Intermediate Sprints as we count down to the finale. The first Intermediate Sprint is at lap 11, with 15 laps to go; the second at 10 laps to go and the last Intermediate Sprints with just five laps to go. Last year during the Yas Island Stage, for the first time ever in a men’s professional road race, live on-board bike camera footage was made available and used for live television race coverage.