DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — The Emirates want to keep a good thing going, say Dubai Tour organizers who unveiled the fifth edition of their race Monday evening in the Arab state. For now, they are focused on the 2018 race, February 6-10. Longer term, the United Arab Emirates hope to attract the Giro d’Italia for its big start.
“This is more than a race for us, there are two sides: competition and tourism,” said Saeed Hareb, head of the Dubai Sports Council.
“We keep finding new places to visit. We went to the Hatta Dam, showed it with beautiful helicopter shots, and now everyone knows about it.”
The United Arab Emirates spread out along the Persian Gulf. Most of the last five tours explored lands close to the water, with only few days venturing inland. Already, insiders with organization provider RCS Sport say that they have found new climbs that one day, once the facilities develop, could feature in the Arabian tour.
Sprinters like Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin in 2018) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) enjoy the route with its mostly flat stages that allow them to hit top speeds before the European season begins with such races as Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Dubai Tour gains more leverage among the sprinters this 2018 season as the Tour of Qatar will not feature in the Middle East line-up of races. That race ended after 15 years, but the Dubai Tour and neighboring tours in Oman and Abu Dhabi will continue.
Hareb remains confident even if Qatar pulled the plug and Oman appears at times on unstable ground. ASO confirmed to VeloNews on Monday that the Tour of Oman, a stage race more for climbers with the Green Mountain summit finish, will continue in 2018.
“Everyone has issues but we want to keep going,” Hareb added. “We are doing what the successful races like the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France have done, beaming live footage into the households. We want the UAE and images of its locations known.
“We are supporting Expo 2020 with the route, but also making the locals happy. We take it to the big worker camps so that they can come out and enjoy what we are enjoying. We want to share this happiness.”
One idea, after Jerusalem’s successful bid for the 2018 Giro d’Italia start, is for the UAE to host the start of a grand tour. Hareb confirmed that they have spoken with Giro organizer RCS Sport about that possibility. Also, still at the UCI’s hors category level, he wants the race to be in the WorldTour in 2019 or soon thereafter.
Before the evening race presentation, the sun warmed the city with its Burj Khalifa Tower (163 floors) to 66°F (19°C). Locals met at the Cycle Hub and drove to the Al Qudra bike paths for one of the daily group rides. Through the tour, the cycling community has grown and now enjoys nearly 130 miles of continuous bike paths closed to traffic. The roads hardly climb over five percent, but the heat, wind, and sand create their own challenges.
“The race has helped the industry, now we have that bike path and it continues to expand. Shops are opening, like the Cycle Hub. We eventually want all the neighborhoods connected with paths, too,” Hareb continued.
“We want both, to support the health of our community and to have a healthy competition. We want that it supports young developing racers.
“Five years seem like a lot, but that Tour has been going on for 100 years. We have a long way to go, but we also have plenty to build on.”