Dubai, RCS confirm plans for race in 2014

Giro d'Italia organizers, Dubai will add a third major stage race to the early-season calendar in the Middle East in 2014

Petro-dollars continue to pump into cycling, this time with Dubai getting in on the act of adding cycling to its quiver of sports.

RCS Sport and officials from the Dubai Sport Council confirmed Monday that a Tour of Dubai will debut in 2014 in the bustling city of the United Arab Emirates, most likely in February.

The announcement comes as official confirmation following an exhibition race last week involving Ryder Hesjedal, Alberto Contador, Tony Martin and Vincenzo Nibali, where the story first leaked.

Details remain to be fleshed out, but it’s likely the race will follow the model of other events like the Tours of Qatar and Oman, already held in the oil-rich region.

The news is a coup for RCS Sport, which runs and organizes the Giro d’Italia and most of the other major cycling events on the Italian calendar.

ASO, owners and operators of the Tour de France and other top French races, have forged lucrative ties with Qatar and Oman to develop and organize races in those Arab countries.

This will be a new venture for RCS Sport, which has also made a big bet on exporting its popular gran fondo series beyond Italy.

Never ones to be outdone by their neighbors, Dubai pulled out all the stops in the exhibition race, presenting race jerseys designed by Versace and putting the riders up in luxurious digs.

There were even suggestions that an artificial mountain will be constructed in Dubai’s flat desert landscape to accommodate a short uphill finale for its debut tour.

The exhibition race inaugurated a cycling center that will host more than 50km of bike-only roads and trails that cyclists can ride safely away from traffic.

Officials say embracing cycling will help their effort to make a bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games.