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More petro-dollars are pouring into cycling, this time via the Emirates with the debut Tour of Dubai set for February 5-8.
Dubai officials unveiled Tuesday its four-stage route, with an opening time trial and three road stages. Among confirmed starters include world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Team), Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha).
In total, 16 teams of eight-rider squads will line up in Dubai for what is the third major early season race to take root in the Persian Gulf region.
The field will include 11 UCI ProTeams, three of the top-ranked teams in the Asia Tour, as well as the United Arab Emirates national squad and the upstart continental Dubai Sky Dive team, which has been making noise about aiming for the UCI WorldTour within the next few years.
As can be expected for these types of events flowing in the oil-rich Gulf region, everything should be top-shelf, both in terms of infrastructure, accommodation, and production. Officials are underwriting a TV broadcast that will be beamed out live to the major cycling markets.
Following on the heels of the successful races in the Gulf region, with the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, both organized by Amaury Sports Organisation, the Emirates didn’t want to be left out.
RCS Sport, which organizes the Giro d’Italia and the other major Italian races, didn’t want to be left out, either.
The race began to take root a few years ago, when the Emirates approached Giro officials about starting the “corsa rosa” in Dubai. They countered that it would be a better long-term investment to create an annual race rather than a one-off event.
Regional powers are using cycling as part of an aggressive effort to establish the Gulf region as a hub for international sport. Qatar already secured rights to host the 2022 World Cup and there is growing momentum to host what would be the first Olympic Games for the Arab world.
On Tuesday, officials used the spectacular Royal Mirage, the headquarters for the 2010 World Expo, as the backdrop for Tuesday’s official race presentation.
With four stages, each day will start at the Dubai World Trade Center. Stage 1 will be a 10-kilometer individual time trial through the streets of central Dubai.
The 122km stage 2 will traverse the central sporting facilities in Dubai, including a golf course, a horse racetrack, the Formula One course, and an Olympic pool.
The 166km third stage, the longest of the four, will leave the urban center and finish after rolling across the desert country to Hatta.
The 124km final stage will pass two of Dubai’s most emblematic buildings — the Burj Al Arab hotel complex and the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 830 meters — before ending in “old Dubai.”