Members of the Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah Sports Councils and UAE Tour organisers during the press conference of UAE Tour logo and trophy unveiling in Dubai. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: The inaugural 2019 UAE Tour is gathering speed as the nation prepares for the cycling extravaganza that will take place across all seven emirates from February 24 to March 2 next year.

The UAE already had two top events in the Abu Dhabi Tour (since 2015) and the Dubai Tour (since 2014), but now plans are in place to put the nation on the global cycling map with a new merged competition expanding to seven stages encompassing Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain.

The respective sports councils of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, along with other four emirates, have been working rigorously over the past 12 months to get everything in place for the national event in 2019 that will place the UAE tour among the top cycling competitions around the world.

At the unveiling of the UAE Tour’s new logo and trophy — both heptagonal to illustrate all seven emirates involved in the race — at the Audi Dubai Showroom, home of the Tour’s sponsors Al Nabooda Automobiles in Dubai, Aref Al Awani, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council General Secretary, hailed the hard work that had gone into making this competition possible.

“The new race is a big opportunity for cycling here, we know it and we’re working to be ready to be under the world’s spotlights at the end of February,” he said. “We are able to announce this race in record time thanks to all involved, including all the sports councils and the Tour bosses. Thanks to this world-class cyclists and teams will come to the UAE for this event.

The UAE Tour logo and trophy.

“You will be really surprised at this new race. There will be two mountain stages, a coast-to-coast stage and a team time trial. This will be a completely different race to what we have done before. We want the world to know about the UAE.”

Saeed Hareb, the Dubai Sports Council Secretary General, echoed his enthusiasm.

Sharing know-how

“Sharing the know-how, the resources and the effort with the other emirates is very important to build up the race and to have new targets. We always talk about discovering the territory with the riders but it’s just part of the big picture. This is the way: to increase the audience whether locally or internationally.

“One single Tour gives us greater depth. We are now here as a nation. We are one. Not only will there be the race, there are also a lot of economic, urban and tourism projects involved. We all be discovering new landmarks around the country, not just for those watching and travelling from abroad, but also those who are already living here.”

Al Awani also revealed that the growth in cycling in the UAE was being used as a tool to help get people fitter.

“We want to motivate people to exercise and cycling is central to this,” he said. “A lot of tracks have been cycling built and we have succeeded in spreading cycling as a culture. More than 20,000 people consider cycling as part of their routine here. It is exploding in the region and we are very proud to bring a world-class event here. I hope the fans will all be out to cheer on the riders. Only a few races around the world have seven or more stages. We can bring the top talent and teams. This is a great honour.”

Eisa Hilal Al Hezami, the Sharjah Sports Council General Secretary, was delighted at the recognition the other emirates will receive from this event.

“Every edition of the Dubai Tour involved our territory but this is the first time we’ve worked together for the same purpose,” he said. “Being here today to represent Sharjah is a big honour and I’m sure we’re working in the right way to assure a big future to the UAE Tour and the sport of cycling in general. For the sake of our youth, we will be ready to provide everything for this Tour.

“It means so much to be here, especially as this is the Year of Zayed and the Sharjah stage will be coast to coast. Sharjah is the only emirate to share a border with the other six, so we are truly central to this.”

While the fine-tuning for the logistics and routes of each stage is ironed out, Hareb said: “We have to coordinate with the police and municipalities of each emirate before announcing the landmarks and put the final touches to the stages.”

Al Awani had special praise for all the volunteers that have been involved in the past and will be involved again this time around. “They are our hidden soldiers. we have to thank all the volunteers and municipalities. We will be opening the chance to volunteer once again this year through the volunteers.ae website.”

The facts: UAE Tour

February 24 to March 2

■ Seven stages in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain

■ Includes two mountain stages, a coact-to-coast stage and a team time-trial

■ Routes will be announced in December