Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Tour is set to be without one of its headline acts next week, Sir Bradley Wiggins, according to British media reports on Thursday.
The five-time Olympic champion was named in the provisional start list for the event, which takes place on October 20-23, on Wednesday evening.
But reports in newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Guardian said Wiggins has no plans to race in the UAE capital and instead is focusing on forthcoming six-day competitions in London and Ghent.
Quoting Press Association Sport, they said: “The four-day race was never in the 36-year-old’s confirmed schedule.”
And Cyclingnews.com added that Wiggins’ “representatives had confirmed he will not take part in the race.”
Gulf News contacted Abu Dhabi Tour organisers for confirmation about the reports, but had not heard back at the time of going to press on Thursday.
Wiggins last raced at September’s Tour of Britain and has since announced his decision to retire at the end of the year.
He has been dogged by recent controversy after data stolen by hackers from files held by the World Anti-Doping Agency showed he received three therapeutic use exemptions for an otherwise banned drug.
The TUEs (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) were for anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone — a substance which has a history of abuse in cycling — on the eve of the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and 2013 Giro d’Italia. He became the first British winner of the Tour in 2012.
Wiggins and Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford, the British Cycling performance director until April 2014, have vigorously denied any wrongdoing. They have insisted TUEs were medically needed to address a pollen allergy that exacerbated Wiggins’ long-standing asthma.
The TUEs were approved by the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, and there is no suggestion that Wiggins, who left Team Sky in April 2015, or the team, have broken any rules.
Wiggins was set to compete against in Abu Dhabi against Team Sky’s Nicholas Roche, who on Tuesday said the British legend’s TUE use was ethically wrong.
“When WADA was hacked the first time and before the Wiggins story, there is a major problem with TUEs. There is a problem with the actual system,” Roche told Cyclingnews.com.
“Again, you can do whatever you want against Wiggins, but unfortunately, as far as ethically it’s wrong, he is within the rules. It is wrong that these rules are like that.”
The organisers of the Abu Dhabi Tour, RCS Sport and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), may even be relieved by Wiggins’ absence given that it might have overshadowed the showpiece.
And they still can boast a star-studded line-up, with the likes of the two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and Abu Dhabi Tour ambassador Mark Cavendish set to take part in the four-stage, 555-kilometre extravaganza.
It will get under way with two flat stages dedicated to sprinters, followed by a mountain stage, where climbers and puncheurs will fight for general classification.
The grand finale at the iconic Formula One Yas Marina Circuit under lights 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.
The third edition will be held on February 23-26, 2017.
Visit www.abudhabitour.com for more information.