Saeed Hareb Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Top officials from Abu Dhabi and Dubai sports councils converged to lay the blueprint for the first-ever combined cycle tour, set to take place early next year.

The Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) and Dubai Sports Council (DSC) announced earlier that the Abu Dhabi Tour and the Dubai Tour would merge into a single ‘UAE Tour’ in 2019.

Top officials met earlier this week with race organisers and partners RCS Sport to announce details of the Middle East region’s only World Tour race that will be held from February 25 to March 2, 2019.

The race will start off in Abu Dhabi and go through all emirates before its conclusion in Dubai. The 2020 race will reverse the route with organisers hoping to add more stages as the event develops.

The inclusion of the six-day UAE Tour is the biggest change to the 2019 UCI calendar with the Giro d’Italia moving back a week to be held between May 11 and June, while the Tour de France maintaining its slot from July 6-28.

At Sunday’s joint meeting held in Abu Dhabi, Aref Al Awani, general secretary at ADSC, said: “Since the beginning we’ve been working to create a race that would be more and more appealing to enthusiasts, fans and riders. This merger between the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Tours represents an opportunity to become bigger and stronger to better promote cycling culture in the UAE and in the Middle East region.”

Saeed Hareb, general secretary at DSC was pleased with the achievement of the two events while promoting cycling in the UAE. “We are very proud of the last five years’ achievements of the Dubai Tour, and I would like to thank all our sponsors, partners and volunteers because we are all part of the same team,” Hareb said.

“Challenge is the spice of life and with the creation of this brand-new tour with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council we will further the cause of cycling as perhaps one of the fast-growing sports in the UAE,” he added.

The detailed route and jerseys will be unveiled early next year, while the new logo, the official advertising campaign and associated promotional activities will be disclosed at a special media meeting scheduled for October 3.

One of the most important activities to be added will be the UAE Tour’s Educational Project, an hour-long workshop created exclusively for school students in the country.

In the past three years, almost 4,000 children between eight to 12 years of age have been part of this project and organisers are now eyeing more schools from the UAE.

Serious cycling made its debut in the country with the opening of the Al Qudra track in 2013. This was followed by a four-stage first edition of the Dubai Tour in 2014 with attendance from top-class riders such as Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel, Rui Costa, Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara, Joaquim Rodriguez, Vincenzo Nibali and eventual winner Taylor Phinney.