The UAE Tour returns for its fourth edition, from February 20-26 and the stages are set for seven days of thrilling sprints, arduous climbs, tactical battles and the ultimate goal of crowning the champion of the 2022 UCI World Tour season opener.
While still in its embryonic years, the UAE Tour attracts the best cyclists in the world’s and two-time Tour de France Champion and UAE Team Emirates star is back to defend his crown.
From highways to deserts, mountains to city streets, the best in the globe are once again set to fight it out over a week of arduous effort in pursuit of glory.
Here Gulf News takes you through all you need to know about the UAE Tour 2022.
The 2022 UAE Tour kicks off the World Tour calendar on Sunday, bringing the world’s best riders together as the UAE accelerates its long-term cycling ambitions to become a leading global cycling hub. This is thanks in no small part to the UAE Tour as it broadcast to the world the accessible, scenic and challenging terrain the UAE has to offer cyclists — be it professional or amateur.
As recently as February 2019, some of the biggest names in cycling rolled off for the first ever UAE Tour, taking a professional peloton of more than 100 riders on a whistle-stop tour of all seven emirates across seven stages of racing. The inaugural event was won by Olympic gold medallist Primoz Roglic and has continued to grow in stature ever since.
In 2020, even as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe, the UAE Tour still managed to put together a successful — if curtailed — event.
The five-stage race was won by Mitchelton—Scott’s British rider Adam Yates, with over a minute’s advantage over youngster Tadej Pogacar of local side UAE Team Emirates. The Slovenian took second overall and the young riders title. Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal collected the points classification crown. The sprints classification was won by Veljko Stojnic of Vini Zabu-KTM. Thanks to the efforts of Pogacar, Diego Ulissi and Davide Formolo, UAE Team Emirates took the team title.
Next, in 2021, we saw the UAE Tour back to full operational capacity and there was great fanfare as Pogacar claimed the general classification title in dominant fashion for UAE Team Emirates — sandwiched between two famous Tour de France titles. The Slovenian outshone Yates this time around and also picked up his second young riders title. Joao Almeida of Deceuninck-Quick-Step was third.
Dutchman David Dekker of Team Jumbo — Visma claimed the points crown over seven tough stages, while France’s Tony Gallopin took the sprints title for AG2R Citroën Team.
Cycling fans now await the fourth edition of the only World Tour race in the Middle East, organised by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, with a host of household names to race a route of more than 1,000km in length before concluding at the Expo 2020 Dubai site on February 26.
With a broadcast audience of millions across five continents, the UAE Tour is capturing the attention of the world’s cyclists, and boosting the growth of the sport in the region as a result.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai have quickly become a world-class cycling destinations, due to expansive networks of purpose-built cycle tracks and urban cycling networks.
UCI, the sport’s governing body, recently announced that Abu Dhabi has received the prestigious UCI Bike City label. The award was granted for the region’s commitment to hosting international cycling events, promoting the sport across the community, and developing cycling infrastructure and programmes that support the UCI’s cycling for all strategy.
GC Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma)
Points Elia Viviani (Deceuninck—Quick-Step)
Young Rider David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ)
GC Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
Points Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal)
Sprints Veljko Stojnic (Vini Zabu-KTM)
Young Rider Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
GC Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
Points David Dekker (Team Jumbo-Visma)
Sprints Tony Gallopin (AG2R Citroen Team)
Young Rider Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
Riders to watch
The Slovenian has grown into one of the greatest young riders on tour and already has two Tour de France titles to his name. He is a strong favourite to defend the title he won in 2021 and at 23 years old, will be around for years to come.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider is possibly Pogacar’s closest challenger, having won the title in 2020 and coming a close second to the Slovenian last time out. His fourth place in last year’s Vuelta a Espana will give him confidence.
The Jumbo-Visma man, who last rode the UAE Tour in 2019, competing in its augural edition. After a break from professional cycling, 2022 is a big year for the Dutch rider, who is looking to prove himself at a Grand Tour this season. Dumoulin will no doubt aim to build on the sixth place overall that he earned at the 2019 UAE Tour and begin his World Tour season with a strong result.
The Dutch veteran will be competing in the race for the first time for Team DSM, adding the UAE Tour to a CV that includes the Giro d’Italia title, two Tour de France GC podiums and multiple Grand Tour stage wins.
Portuguese Almeida joins Pogacar for a two-pronged UAE Team Emirates attack. At one month older that his teammate, the pair will be looking to forge a bond that can bring multiple more major titles to the UAE — starting on home shores. Almeida has finished fourth and sixth in his two Giro d’Italia campaigns to date.
The Australian Bora-Hansgrohe man has yet to win a major title, but will be fancied to break his duck after having already taken second place overall in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de Pologne by the age of 25.
Sprinters and time-trialists
The Irish eight-time Grand Tour stage winner has rejoined the Bora-Hansgrohe team for 2022, and will aim to bounce back from his 2021 season with a strong start in the Emirates this month. Having taken two stage wins on his UAE Tour debut last year, Bennett will no doubt be one to watch.
The Quick-Step man may be 36 but is showing no sign of slowing down as he won last year’s Tour de France green jersey. The ‘Manx Missile’ has earned 52 Grand Tour stage wins and a UCI World Championship title over the course of his career but is yet to take first place at the UAE Tour, having previously competed in 2019 and 2020 editions.
The Ineos Grenadiers hope will be on the hunt for stage wins. The Italian first rode the UAE Tour in 2019, taking a stage victory and the sprinter’s green jersey.
The Dutchman, riding for Team BikeExchange-Jayco will compete in the UAE Tour for the second time after his race debut in 2020, adding victory on Stage 4 to a list of victories including four Tour de France stages.
The winner of Milano-Sanremo and a five-time Giro d’Italia stage winner returns to the UAE after his race debut in 2020, during which he took a stage podium atop the steep Hatta Dam.
The Belgian Alpecin-Fenix rider returns for his second UAE Tour. Philipsen has already amassed three stage wins at La Vuelta and numerous stage podiums in the Tour de France — all by the age of 23.
There will be 20 teams racing in the fourth edition of the UAE Tour — 17 UCI World Teams and three UCI Pro Teams. The event has attracted the world’s top teams including UAE Team Emirates, Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma.
UCI World Teams
AG2R Citroen Team
Astana Qazaqstan Team
Israel Premier Tech
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
UAE Team Emirates
UCI Pro teams
Bardiani CSF Faizanè
Stage 1 — Al Ain Water Stage — Madinat Zayed (184km)
A stage taking place entirely in the desert. It’s beginning and finale follow approximately 45km of straight roads. Once in Liwa, the route enters a zone of dunes that make up the bulk of the stage’s elevation. A series of ups and downs will be covered twice to take the riders to Moreeb Dune. After passing Liwa for the second time, the route follows the same way back to Madinat Zayed.
Stage 2 — International Holding Company Stage — Hudayriyat Island to Abu Dhabi Breakwater (176km)
A stage around the city of Abu Dhabi. It departs from Hudayriyat Island and heads to Yas Island and then to Al Raha, passing by the Great Mosque. The route returns first through the Al Wathba Camel Track and then Khalifa City to converge again on Yas Marina and head to Saadiyat Island. The riders then take the Corniche to Abu Dhabi Breakwater for a sprint finish.
Stage 3 — G42 Stage presented by Tissot — Ajman ITT (9km)
An individual time trial entirely in Ajman that features a very fast course characterised only by a U-turn about halfway along the route. The road is perfectly flat and wide with wide radius turns.
Stage 4 — Burjeel Medical City Stage — Fujairah Fort to Jebel Jais (181km)
This is the first of two most likely decisive mountain stages in the UAE Tour. It is divided into two distinctly different parts: the first being an undulating approach to the final mountain through the desert and the second being the last 20km or so of continuous climbing to the finish. Departure is from Fujairah, crossing the desert areas on the edge of the Hajar Mountains towards Ras Al Khaimah, whose capital city is not crossed by the race, which heads directly towards Jebel Jais. The stage’s final climb is around 20km in length at an almost constant 5 per cent, with slightly steeper gradients of around 7-9 per cent in the last 2km.
Stage 5 — Marjan Stage — Ras Al Khaimah Corniche to Al Marjan Island (182km)
The stage starts in Ras Al Khaimah with a desert departure at the foot of Jebel Jais. It then heads to Umm Al Quwain and north across the desert again to almost reach Ras Al Khaimah before heading to Marjan Island for the final sprint. The entire route takes place on wide, well-paved and essentially straight roads through the desert where wind and sometimes sand can affect the peloton.
Stage 6 — Expo 2020 Dubai Stage — Expo 2020 Dubai (180km)
The city stage of Dubai, departing from Expo 2020 Dubai. The first part of the stages takes place in the desert, touching familiar locations: Dubai Sports City, Al Qudra Cycletrack and the Silicon Oasis, until returning to the city at Meydan Racecourse. Crossing the city, the riders will then reach Jumeirah Road, Palm Jumeirah and the Jumeirah Islands before returning to Expo 2020 Dubai. The entire route takes place on very wide roads, essentially straight, interspersed with large and well-paved roundabouts. The riders may encounter some sand in case of wind during the desert sections.
Stage 7 — Mubadala Stage — Al Jahili Fort to Jebel Hafeet (148km)
This is the classic mountain stage of the UAE Tour. The first part of the stage follows the usual route around Al Ain, passing many of its well-known sights (Al Ain Zoo, Al Qattara, Al Hili, Al Ain Oasis) before returning after a long desert loop to Green Mubazzarah where the closing 10km climb up Jebel Hafeet is the final ‘judge’ of the race.
Sponsor: International Holding Company
Features the iconic Qasr Al Hosn
Sponsor: Italian Trade Agency
Features famous landmarks of Italy: Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rome Colosseum, Venice and Milan Cathedral
Young Rider Classification
Features the world-famous Palm Jumeirah
Intermediate Sprint Classification
Sponsor: Abu Dhabi Aviation
Features Abu Dhabi Aviation’s helicopter following the UAE Tour peloton
How to watch
The UAE Tour will be broadcast each day live on Abu Dhabi Sports and Dubai Sports, plus live streaming on the UCI and UAE Tour website and social media.
What they said
“Once again we welcome the world’s elite teams and riders to the launch of global races on the UCI’s agenda, hoping that the UAE Tour will be a gateway to the start of the season. Thanks to the sincere efforts made by the competent authorities and their supervision of the application of all precautionary and preventive measures for the safety and health of all. The UAE Tour has become a prestigious sport brand among the major events in the world, and has been able to multiply the successes and gains every year, and has contributed to achieving important societal impacts on different groups and generations.
“Cycling has become one of the important sports with widespread presence in society over the years. It enhances the quality of life index and supports a healthy and sporting lifestyle among all groups and segments of society. We take pride on the value of the UAE Tour, the event that has proven its great position since the launch of its first edition in 2019, and which recorded sporting, promotional and economic achievements for the various emirates of the country and their urban, historical and tourist attractions.”
- Aref Al Awani, General Secretary, Abu Dhabi Sports Council
“This is an exciting moment for IHC as we kick off our three-year partnership with Abu Dhabi Sports Council and become part of one of the most prestigious sporting events globally. Undoubtedly, the event represents an excellent platform for promoting the Emirate’s passion for sports and its unique territory, and we are thrilled for IHC’s name to be part of it, as the Tour’s Red Jersey sponsor. Working closely with ADSC, our objective is to add more value to the Tour, introduce supporting activities around the event, drive more community engagement and promote health and well-being."
- Syed Basar Shueb, CEO and Managing Director of International Holding Company
“Nakheel has supported the UAE Tour since its inception as part of its commitment to hosting and endorsing the world-class, international sporting events in the UAE calendar. The Tour showcases the UAE’s natural beauty, iconic skyline and world famous developments, and we are honoured that some of our key communities including Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah Islands will once again be part of this sporting spectacle.”
- Mohammad Al Qassem, Executive Director, Nakheel Community Management
“In this year’s edition we have implemented some new changes that will make the route more exciting from a sports and cultural perspective; four sprints, one individual time trial and two climbs will shape the race and give the opportunity to all riders with different characteristics to try and get a win. From a cultural perspective the race will meet the glorious past of the UAE by touching some of the stunning monuments and historical sites of the region and the bright future created through sustainability, mobility and opportunity by starting and finishing in Expo 2020 for Stage 6.”
- Fabrizio D’Amico, RCS Sports and Events DMCC Chief Operating Officer
“We are delighted to participate in the UAE Tour 2022, where Abu Dhabi Aviation is keeping in mind the support of sports and athletes, and pointed out that Abu Dhabi is witnessing a qualitative shift in the world championships it hosts, stressing that this is a translation of the guidance of good leadership. Abu Dhabi Aviation’s participation in the UAE Tour is a support for sports activities and events hosted by Abu Dhabi, as well as collaboration in the development vision of the UAE’s sporting events and activities. Abu Dhabi Airlines is also keen to carry out its community duties by supporting and sponsoring major sporting events that contribute to the development of community performance, spreading the culture of sport to reach a healthier and happier society."
- Hashim Al Hashimi, Business and Projects Manager at Abu Dhabi Airlines